Thursday, December 6, 2012

Update on the Kink and the 765

Well, it seems that the August 20, 2012 operation westbound of the 765 steam locomotive was without assistance of the diesel locomotive. According to the November issue of Trains Magazine at page 80, "765's Glory Moment," reports that Norfolk Southern's Chairman, Wick Moorman was in the cab. The diesel was idling and the steam locomotive solely pulled the train using all its steam capacity to do so. The speed dropped to 10.9 miles per hour. The ES44AC diesel locomotive (Built at Erie, PA by GE) was used to assist the steam locomotive in reaching the curve from Altoona and then again after 765 had completed the westbound leg of the Horseshoe Curve. Going round the curve, steam energy did all the work.

I have to say, as dramatic as the transit was for the 765, I hope the Fort Wayne Historical Society, its owner, never puts such stress on the machine again. Perhaps it would have been more prudent to have used the extra power of the ES44AC on the curve.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Kink or the Horseshoe Curve

On August 13, 2012 the Norfolk Southern Railroad operated a special train with a steam locomotive westbound over the Horseshoe Curve. Here is a video of the Horseshoe Curve trip made from an open door of a following baggage car. Here is the video link:

At 0:09 seconds the locomotive is above Bakers Run at milepost 241.7. This is a 9.0 degree curve with a 4 inch right rail elevation. The speed limit has changed from 35 mph to 30 mph for freight and 44 mph for passenger trains on the Horseshoe Curve. The degree of climb is 1.34.

At 0:33 seconds the curvature stiffens to 9.4 degrees at milepost 241.8. The degree of climb remains 1.34.

At 0:44 seconds the public observation area with many onlookers is seen. A PRR GP9 locomotive is on display representing the first fleet of diesel locomotives that replaced steam locomotives in the early 1950's.

At 1:47 the steam locomotive ahead is nearly at the end of the 9.4 degree curve. The degree of climb increases to 1.76.

The steam locomotive used by the Norfolk Southern Railroad to acknowledge its thirty year corporate existence is Number 765. It was built after WWII for the Nickle Plate Railroad, a predecessor component of today's Norfolk Southern Railroad. Number 765 was built by the Lima Company. Today it is preserved and operated by the Fort Wayne Historical Society. In addition, the steam locomotive was assisted by a new diesel locomotive painted in the colors used by the Nickle Plate Railroad when it dieselized in the mid 1950's. Assisted might be the wrong word as the diesel locomotive is an ES44AC model built by GE at Erie, PA. It has 4400 horsepower. In reality is it the steam locomotive that assists the diesel locomotive?

Then there was the sound. The locomotive had both its nickle plate whistle and a PRR whistle. The second sounding of the whistle as the train passed the observation area was the higher pitched scream of the PRR whistle. Add to the sound its amplification off the rock face to the right and the giant amphiteater that is the Horseshoe Curve was demonstrated.

What the sound of a steam locomotive working against a steep grade and severe curvature demonstrates is how the 1850's civil engineering of the Horseshoe curve is a kink in the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line.

Compare photographs of a steam powered passenger train operated by Conrail in October of 1976 over the Horseshoe Curve. Conrail had been formed from bankrupt railroad companies in April of 1976. Its principle component was the Penn Central Railroad Company which had earlier been the product of a merger between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad.

The steam locomotive was a Reading Railroad T1 steam locomotive built after WWII assisted by a GP30 locomotive with 2250 horsepower. The T1 steam locomotive was owned by a group of persons at Akron, Ohio wanting to operate and maintain a steam locomotive.

Seen below and expressed by the large cloud of white steam is the point where the steam locomotive lost traction and wheels spun wildly as the engineer cut the throttle in order to regain traction. This is at about 0:25  on the video.

  This photograph portrays  the position of the train in the video at 0:33.

In 1957 the steam locomotive to the left was put on static display. It was a PRR steam locomotive built at Altoona's Juniata Shops. It was part of the 435 K4 type passenger locomotives built. The K4 was removed from static display in 1986 and returned to operating status in 1987 for a brief period of time. It is now located at the Railroaders Memorial Museum at Altoona, PA.

The location of the locomotive in the photograph below is at 1:38 in the video. The steam locomotive has again lost its footing and the enigneer is in the process of regaining traction. The lazy plume of smoke is indicative of the slow speed near a walk as the smoke plume is being blown forward. 

Note that in 1976 there were four tracks over the Horseshoe Curve. The track second from left was lifted by Conrail and the materials recycled for use elsewhere. The ballast is fouled and the ties are covered with stone. That was the result of deferred maintenance. The blackened area on the stone ballast shows the result of friction wheel bearings. In 1976 a substantial portion of the freight car fleet had wheel sets with friction bearings. The axle ends rested in an enclosure with a pool of oil. The decades long conversion of the freight car fleet to roller bearings was just beginning.

Here the photograph is at 1:38 in the video. The 1976 trip was a struggle for the steam locomotive and diesel used then. The operation shown in the video was anything like that in 1976.
It was a kink in 1976. The Horseshoe Curve is a kink today.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Railway Age" Comments 8th World Conference HSR Philladelphia 7/10-13/12

Comments in the trade journal, "Railway Age" about the 8th World Conference on High Speed Rail held in Philadelphia 7/10-13/12 can be found on page 30 of the August issue. Go to  In the upper right corner click on "digital edition." The next page will show three issues of the magazine. The left image is for the August 2012 issue. Click on the August issue and go to page 30.

For the 6/27/12 comments about the conference from an international perspective, see "International Railway Journal" at

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Comments New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago Route

What is most interesting about the proposed route for the New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago route is that its location had such favorable grades and its location was direct. While the line's curves were not to exceed 4 degrees, that degree curvature is too severe for Higher Speed Rail (HrSR).  So, the proposed location needs today to be looked at from the standpoint of location with 2 degree or less for curves. If the location were considered for high speed rail (HSR) curves should be 1 degree or less

Recently sketches of the map for the proposed NYPC RR with grade profile have been provided to this testplant blog from the Interstate Commerce Commission,  Finance Docket 4,741,  February 27, 1930. It is noteworthy that closer examination finds that at its crossing of the Allegheny Frontal would be a grade of 1.337% for a distance of 7 miles. The line was to use a 1560 foot tunnel. A longer tunnel and / or combination of using the face of the Allegheny frontal to ascend could have lessened the grade. In fact, a five mile long tunnel was also proposed that lessened the grade to .03 per cent.

The steep grade was to have been from Houtzdale to a place about 5 miles northeast of  Tyrone, PA using Emigh's Gap.
Thomas Moran woodcut looking east from Emigh's Gap, published "Pennsylvania Railroad Historical and Descriptive" 1875.
The Pennsylvania Railroad in an apparent competitive contingency to the NYPC RR planned a shorter low grade line across Pennsylvania that today's historians name the "Sam Rea" line after the PRR president who's name is on it. It crossed the Allegheny frontal between Tyrone and a place south of there that was north of Bellwood, PA. It did so with a longer tunnel and but heavier grade proposed by the NYPC RR yet remaining less than 1%.

Both The NYPC RR and "Sam Rea" line would have used dramatic viaducts likely rivaling the one built across the Tunkhannock creek known as the Nicholson Viaduct 1912 - 1915 by the Delaware and Lackawanna Railroad.

See to learn about the construction of the viaduct with the tools available in 1912.

If the rough location of the NYPC RR were followed across Pennsylvania for a new high speed rail (HSR) line, structures like this one in Germany would be built. A viaduct on this magnitude together with a longer tunnel at the proposed NYPC RR (Emigh's Gap) route over and through the Allegheny frontal would result in a lesser grade.

Check out for more photographs of German high speed rail (HSR) construction in topography similar to Pennsylvania's.

The NYPC RR would have required 19 bridges / viaducts and 35 tunnels. Today, the number would be different due to the ability to create cuts and fills with diesel powered hydraulic construction equipment not possible with woven wire propelled steam shovels, pneumatic drills, dynamite, temporary narrow haul spoil haulage trains, and towers supporting  buckets of concrete on woven steel wires.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Low Grade Survey Mid Pennsylvania 1906

From the New York Times archives, August 14, 1906. The article reports that the President of the Wabash Railroad, Joseph Ramsey, Jr. had made a survey to cross Pennsylvania for a proposed New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago Railroad. It was to gain access to Pittsburgh via the railroad on the west bank of the Allegheny River.  At Freeport, PA northeast a new railroad was to be built east to Easton, PA. 

George Gould had aspirations to create a transcontinental railroad. He controlled the Wabash Railroad. By 1906 he had assembled from east to west, the Western Maryland Railroad, (There was a gap from Connellsville, PA to Pittsburgh.), Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway, Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad, Wabash Railroad, Missouri Pacific Railway, Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, Rio Grande Western Railway, Western Pacific Railway.

The proposed New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago Railroad would have had a ruling grade not exceeding .04 per cent. And, the railroad was to have been electrified. In 1906 no long distance AC railroad electrification existed. However, the electrical engineering capacity to have built such a system was then on the drawing boards ready to be applied in the real world. The Western Maryland gave George Gould access to Baltimore, MD. The New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago would have had access to Philadelphia through connections with the Reading Railroad.

This has significance for High Speed Railroad purposes toady as it identified a route across Pennsylvania that is direct and had low grades.

Closer Look 1907 "High Line"

In 1907 the PRR considered construction of additional capacity from Petersburg, PA to Rockville, PA. Here is a closer look:

                               The "High Line" began where the mainline  (yellow) met the
                               branch line (dotted yellow)  from Hollidaysburg to the west.
                               The red line on the blue prints of the PRR map is as drawn.

                               The red line for the proposed "High Line" is approximate on the
                               following Google images.

PennDOT Photograph of a portion of the talus rock formation along the Lewistown Narrows or Jack's Narrows on Shade Mountain. Construction across the talus fields would have posed significant problems.

California High Speed Rail and WHY It's Important for the Nation

The "Sacramento Bee" newspaper on 8/13/12 reported about a podcast addressing the importance of high speed rail. See the link below to access the podcast. Set aside an hour for the podcast. It is worth the time.

"California High-Speed Rail and Why It's Important for the Nation"
presented by Rod Diridon, Sr.

By Mineta Transportation Institute
Published: Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 - 11:53 am

SAN JOSE, Calif., Aug. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) will present a free podcast on Wednesday, August 15, as part of its monthly Transportation Innovation Series. The program will feature Rod Diridon, Sr., presenting a series of slides on "California High-Speed Rail and Why It's Important for the Nation." The free program will be podcast from 1-2pm Eastern, and 10-11am Pacific. Access at

Mr. Diridon is executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose (Calif.) State University. MTI is the lead organization for the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC), a collaboration of nine university transportation centers across the U.S.
His presentation will explain why California's high-speed rail will benefit the U.S. and our environment, and why the state's $68 billion project is an important part of the national plan.
In mid-July, California's legislature gave final approval to sell the Proposition 1A high-speed rail bonds, and it approved the revised business plan. Mr. Diridon will explain the schedule for the first $6 billion in contracts and the related Requests for Proposals (RFPs) now in circulation. He also will explain the differences between true high-speed rail and the incremental upgrades, how HSR will integrate with feeder systems, and how it will create long-term economic benefits..
DISCLAIMER: The views of the presenter do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Rod Diridon, Sr., has served as executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) since 1995, four years after its creation by Congress. Mr. Diridon has chaired more than 100 international, national, state and local programs, most related to transit and the environment. He frequently provides legislative testimony on sustainable transportation issues and is regarded by many as the "father" of modern transit service in Silicon Valley. He was appointed by Governors Davis and Schwarzenegger, in 2001 and 2006, respectively, to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board, of which he is chair emeritus. He helped found, and is chair emeritus of, the High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee and the National High-Speed Rail Corridors Coalition of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). He also served as president of the national Council of University Transportation Centers.

ABOUT RITA The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) coordinates the U.S. Department of Transportation's research and education programs, and is working to bring advanced technologies into the transportation system. RITA also offers vital transportation statistics and analysis, and supports national efforts to improve education and training in transportation-related fields. RITA works to ensure that the nation's transportation research investments produce results for the American people. Visit

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer, focusing on multimodal surface transportation policy and management issues, especially as they relate to transit. MTI was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized under TEA-21 and again under SAFETEA-LU. The Institute has been funded by Congress through the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations, including grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. DOT selected MTI as a National Center of Excellence following competitions in 2002 and 2006. The internationally respected members of the MTI Board of Trustees represent all major surface transportation modes. MTI's focus on policy and management resulted from the Board's assessment of the transportation industry's unmet needs. That led directly to choosing the San Jose State University College of Business as the Institute's home. Visit

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Plan the Keystone West Study Update 9/13/12

Toby Fauver, Deputy Secretary for Local and Area Transportation, PennDOT will be presenting an update on the Plan the Keystone West study at the Oakland Transporation Management Association on September 13, 2012. This is the OTMA annual membership meeting and is open to the public. Reservations are required. The luncheon fee is $25.00. For Reservation check

The meeting is scheduled 12:00 noon to 2:00 P.M. at the University Club, 123 University Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.

See for information about Oakland Transportation Management Associatiion

Saturday, August 18, 2012

High Line PRR Proposal Juniata Valley

In 1907, a proposal was made to build a "high line" in the Juniata Valley from Petersburg, PA to Clark's Ferry, PA where the Juniata River joined the Susquehanna River. The "high line" then followed the east bank of the Susquehanna River to Rockville, PA north of Harrisburg. At Rockville the "high line" would have joined the mainline. The "high line" was proposed in part to address increased traffic. Additional capacity was required. Track capacity could be added to the mainline or this new line could have been built.

The "high line" connected with the the Petersburg Branch and the mainline at Petersburg, PA.  At Petersburg, the Blue Juniata River meets the Little Juniata River forming the Juniata River. Petersburg is located southeast of Tyrone, PA and north of Huntingdon, PA. In 1907 a branch railroad from the mainline at Petersburg followed the Blue Juniata River west to Hollidaysburg. The Petersburg branch at Hollidaysburg, PA joined the Hollidaysburg and Portage branchline that scaled the Allegheny frontal south of Altoona and the mainline. The Hollidaysburg and Portage branchline to Gallitzin, PA and the mainline there followed a line originally built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to bypass the incline planes and levels of the Allegheny Portage Railroad in 1854. The line was sold to the PRR and dismantled in 1858. ( The line was surveyed and built by civil engineer Milnor Roberts who later was responsible for the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad.) The line was rebuilt as the Hollidaysburg and Portage branchline in 1896. By 1900 earlier extensions east of Hollidaysburg along the Blue Juniata River completed a line from Gallitzin to Hollidaysburg to Petersburg. This became the alternative route over the Allegheny frontal using a smaller "muleshoe curve" to carry the line over the frontal. West of Hollidaysburg near Duncansville a branchline ran north to Altoona from a junction called the "Wye" switches. the Hollidaysburg and Portage branchline, or as the PRR would have designated, the H and P secondary, was built to move coal eastward together with the the Petersburg branch relieving the mainline of the additional traffic. 

The "high line" proposal was named as the line was to be built higher upon the sides of the mountains above the Juniata River. The line would have had eased curvature in comparison with the mainline alongside the Juniata River. The section through the Lewistown Narrows east of Lewistown would have been built upon Shade Mountain with its unstable talus rock formation. It is not known if the PRR decision to not pursue the construction of the "high line" was due to the stability of the Shade Gap Mountain talus field or not. It was probably a major consideration.

On the eastern end of the proposed "high line" a tunnel would have been required through Peters Mountain between the east bank of the Susquehanna River across from Clarks Ferry and north of Rockville.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

8th World Congress on High Speed Rail - UIC Comments

The Northeast Corridor is unique. No other high speed railroad system in the world has high speed passenger trains, higher speed passenger trains, conventional passenger train speeds and has freight trains running on its tracks.

Anthony Perl, author of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil," was in attendance at the World Conference on High Speed Rail held earlier in Philadelphia on July 10 to 13.

Perl's comments about the conference can be found here:

Given the the multiple operations on the Northeast Corridor, it is little wonder that Perl notes that Amtrak equips its high speed Acela trains with baskets to contain damaged parts from falling from its Acela trains. The culprit is rough track.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ray LaHood Comments UIC HSR Conference

LaHood: Obama high-speed rail effort 'off to a good start,' despite GOP opposition

By Keith Laing - 07/11/12 12:55 PM ET
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday that the Obama administration's high-speed rail proposals have gotten off to a "good start" despite rejections by several Republican state officials.
Speaking at the start of the World Congress on High-Speed Rail in Philadelphia, LaHood said the rejection of rail money by GOP governors in states like Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio was offset by a recent approval in California.
"We're off to a great start, but we still have a long way to go," he said during a news conference. "We hope our friends in Congress take their cues from California."

LaHood: High-speed rail 'not a pipe dream'

By Keith Laing - 07/12/12 02:15 PM ET
LaHood used a vote last week by state lawmakers in California to move forward with a high-speed railway to push back on questions about Republican governors who have turned down funds for projects in other states.
"Only three" governors have rejected high-speed rail money, LaHood said, referring to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who are all Republicans. "Thirty-three have accepted it."
He added that the United States has learned from many countries that have built high-speed rail and were represented at the conference in Philadelphia.
"We're learning from our colleagues around the world … and I know we can do it here," LaHood said.
Republicans in Congress however, like House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), have sharply criticized the Obama administration for proposing to build high-speed railways in states outside of the populous northeastern United States, where public transportation and Amtrak are both popular.
But LaHood credited President Obama for including $8 billion in the 2009 stimulus package to expand the national high-speed rail network. The stimulus funding contained both $3 billion that went to the California railway and the money that was rejected by the GOP governors.
"The vision has to begin with national leaders," LaHood said of Obama's initial high-speed rail efforts.
"President Obama realized that, and that's why he included $8 billion in the economic recovery package," he said. "That's what got us in the high-speed rail business."
Asked by an attendee at the rail conference what supporters could do to build on the approval in California, LaHood said they should "put people in office who support their ideas."
"Elections make a difference," he said.
The High-Speed Rail Conference, which is sponsored by the International Union of Railways (UIC) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), is scheduled to take place until Friday.

High-speed-rail executives from around the world are meeting in Philadelphia this week

July 12, 2012|By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff 
High-speed-rail executives from around the world gather in Philadelphia this week, hoping to boost support for bullet trains in the United States, where momentum has been slowed by high costs and political disputes.
The Obama administration's pledge to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed trains by 2035 seems increasingly unattainable. Instead, attention has shifted to the Northeast Corridor and California, where hopes for 220-mile-per-hour trains remain highest.
"Maybe we can bring a little help to a vision that is perhaps not fully shared yet in the United States," said Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, director-general of the International Union of Railways in Paris and a leader of the Eighth World Congress on High-Speed Rail, which opens here Wednesday.
Story continues below.
"The wisest way to proceed is to get it running somewhere."
That could be in California, where the legislature last week approved, by a single vote, the first $8 billion for a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail line.
It could be on the Washington-to-Boston corridor, where Amtrak on Monday outlined a $151 billion proposal for 220-mile-an-hour trains by 2030.
Or it could be nowhere.
The new national transportation funding act signed by President Obama on Friday contained no money for high-speed rail, although the administration had sought about $8 billion a year. And Republican governors of Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio have spurned federal money for high-speed rail projects, sending the money back to Washington.
"There's no federal money, there's no private money, and states are not in a position to finance it," said Ken Orski, a transportation adviser to several Republican presidents, including George W. Bush. "The conference in Philadelphia will be high on rhetoric and talk of things going on in Europe and the Middle East . . . but in the domestic situation, their only hope is California."
Not so, says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"High-speed rail is alive and well in America," he said Monday. "The future is as bright as it's ever been.
"We will not be dissuaded by the naysayers in Congress. All over the country, ordinary Americans want to get off of clogged highways and have the kind of transportation they see in other countries. This is being driven by ordinary citizens."

8th World Conference High Speed Rail - Philadelphia


High-speed rail world congress: speeches and stories from the opening session


By Angela Cotey, Associate Editor,  Progressive Railroading Magazine...July 11, 2012

The 8th World Congress on High-Speed Rail’s opening session, held July 11, began the same way many high-speed rail (HSR) conferences have: with a loud, fast-paced video showing snippets of trains speeding along throughout the world.
This particular video featured graphics depicting countries that recently or soon will build or expand HSR systems: Spain, France, Russia, China, Turkey, Morrocco, Italy, The Netherlands, Korea. And this time, it featured a graphic depicting the United States.

Nearly 1,000 HSR leaders, experts and stakeholders from 37 countries swarmed the Pennsylvania Convention Center, eager to teach, learn and listen about how HSR development is unfolding throughout the world. Rumblings around the convention center halls were that about 200 of the attendees were day-of walk-ups. The large number of last-minute registrants presumably was due to the California Legislature’s decision to advance the state’s project just days before the conference.

Of course, news about HSR development in the United States isn’t always positive. Shortly after International Union of Railways (UIC) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA) signed off on the agreement to hold the 2012 World Congress in Philadelphia, governors in Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio turned back federal HSR dollars. Since then, the federal HSR funding pot has all but dried up. But the slowed pace of U.S. HSR development didn't seem to put damper on the excitement. Ultimately, it gave agenda planners an angle to play off. As UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux said: “We held the conference in the United States for the first time in 20 years, precisely for the idea of bringing the experience of those who have done this to those who wish to do it.”

Based on the showing of U.S. transit leaders and suppliers they do, indeed, wish to do it. The event’s kick-off included a speech by APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy, who said the United States has a long way to go in its pursuit of a high-speed rail network, but that “we’re working very hard to achieve that goal.” APTA Chairman Gary Thomas spoke, as well, likening the Obama Administration’s rocky HSR start to that of previous presidential administrations that built the transcontinental railroad, tunnels between New York and New Jersey, and the interstate highway system. All faced harsh criticism but eventually completed their infrastructure projects.

“I predict the very same thing will happen with high-speed rail in the United States,” he said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was on hand, too, and used a portion of his speech to applaud California legislators for approving the bond sale that will enable the state to invest $6 billion in an initial high-speed rail segment and collect more than $3 billion in federal dollars.

“This is a historic opportunity for America — not just California, but America,” he said. “This train will be twice as fast as driving on highways.”

An international perspective
Today, more than 17,000 kilometers of high-speed lines are in operation and more than 9,000 are under construction, 791 trainsets are being manufactured or are on order, and 1.15 billion passengers ride high-speed trains each year.

HSR delegates from around the world shared stories of how HSR has helped them increase connectivity throughout their country and beyond, and increase economic development. Some of those experiences could serve as lessons learned, and provide insight into what U.S. HSR leaders will be facing in their efforts.

In Japan, where Shinkansen high-speed trains began operating in 1964 — making it the world’s first high-speed system — lines have been extended to various parts of the country. Last month, Japan’s government approved yet another Shinkansen extension. So, even 50 years after its initial opening, Shinkansen construction still is under way.

In late 2009, the Russian Railways launched 250 km/h operations on a line between Moscow and St. Petersburg. One year later, 200 km/h trains began operating between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. But operations were supposed to commence much sooner.

High-speed train service in Russia initially was discussed in the 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1990s, the Russian government began to advance the project. Private capital backed by government guarantees was secured, a feasibility study was prepared, and government and public studies were conducted. However, a 1998 market crash sank project financing and construction ceased. Construction finally resumed in the mid-2000s. The slow start has set back the Russian Railways’ long-term high-speed plans.

“Our example is one of how past processes can make you face problems in the future,” said Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin. “Never will an opportunity return again. The possibility might be there, but the opportunity will not.”

The railway plans to have a network of HSR lines in place by 2030.

But on the good-news front, the Russian Railways’ high-speed trains have become very popular.

“The occupancy of these trains is much higher than the occupancy of conventional trains,” said Yakunin. “Within less than three years, we carried more than 6 million people between Moscow and St. Petersburg, and that is only with eight trains.”

In the densely developed areas of Northern Europe — reminiscent of the northeastern portion of the United States — HSR has been critical to increase mobility and accommodate port traffic between Belgium, The Netherland and Luxemburg.

“We have a very dense economy, so mobility is everything,” said Marc Descheemaecker, CEO of the National Railway Company of Belgium.

High-speed trains also give the small countries better access to the larger countries of France, the United Kingdom and Germany. In an analogy that probably best summarized the benefits of having high-speed trains in northern Europe — and also makes the case for building a HSR system in densely populated regions — Descheemaecker put it this way: “It’s possible now to live in Brussels, have breakfast in Paris, lunch in Amsterdam and dinner in London.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Altoona Passenger Station 1924 Plans

The Pennsylvania Railroad Altoona passenger station was a curious affair until its demolition in 1974. Built in the 1880's, it was a small affair not in keeping with stations at Greensburg or Johnstown. The trainshed was built for small trains with short cars. Most 20th century passenger trains would have about 4 cars under the trainshed built in the late 1860's or early 1870's. The trainshed was demolished in the early 1960's.

1924 plans have recently become available for a new Altoona station. See:

From "Pennsylvania Railroad Historical and Descriptive," 1875. The station building was to the left of the woodcut drawing. Looking eastbound, seen is the Logan House Hotel on the left. The trainshed to the right lasted until the early 1960's when it was demolished. The trainshed was hopelessly inadequate for 20th century passenger trains. But it was better than the current situation in which there is no passenger shelter whatsoever.

There are varying theories as to why the station with additional tracks was not built. One is that the Post Office Department building the new Post Office at the location near the passenger station obviously interfered with the proposed station plans. The stock market crash in 1929 and subsequent depression foreclosed upon new construction. Another reason offered by some Altoona residents years ago was that the PRR senior management in Philadelphia were so disturbed by the 1922 Shopmen's strike and subsequent labor troubles that they decided against construction. For whatever reason, the six story building with seven tracks was not built.

Moving Minds - Conservatives and Public Transportation

In 2009 the book, "Moving Minds - Conservatives and Public Transportation" by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind, was published by the Free Congress Foundation and Reconnecting America Center for Transit-Oriented America. The authors made the point that the only transportation mode currently allowing passenger transportation anytime is the auto. It is the auto mode that is the competitive mode for public transit and higher speed rail (HrSR) and high speed rail (HSR).

They made the point that transit competitive trips are what the public seeks in order to switch from the auto mode to transit. Transit competitive trips are trips performed by a service level that induces persons to leave the auto mode. Where transit competitive trips are delivered to the public, the public uses the transit competitive service. And, they emphasize the need to electrify urban transit systems.

Likewise, it can be supposed that HrSR and HSR services must provide service levels that will be competitive trips in cost, time, frequency and comfort to induce change to HrSR and HSR and from autos. And, the freight railroad system in order to support higher speed passenger rail (HSR) must be electrified.

The 1986 "Pennsylvania High Speed Rail Feasibility Study - Market Demand" prepared for the Pennsylvania High Speed Intercity Rail Passenger Commission based its assumptions upon the cost of auto ownership being 12 cents a mile. If that 12 cents a mile had held to inflation, the cost of car ownership today would be 26 cents a mile. The American Automobile Association now computes the cost of ownership at about 75 cents a mile. In 1986, the study made  assumptions as to service levels basing their assumptions upon HSR speeds. The study estimated 6.2 to 7.1 million passengers per year Pittsburgh to Harrisburg to Philadelphia.

The annual report by Amtrak for fiscal year 2011 at page 39 indicates that 1.3 million passengers used the Keystone Corridor East, Harrisburg to Philadelphia. That is, of course, is the slower  "higher speed rail service" (HrSR).

There are pragmatic conservatives and there are ideological conservatives.

Pragmatic conservatives understand that public investment in the auto mode has so skewed the transportation market to the highway mode that there are no options for high quality transit systems or any transit at all for too much of the country. And, for longer distance transportation decades of public policy let alone urban transportation  a transportation system totally dependent upon oil has been created. The dependence upon oil for transportation contributes substantially to trade deficits. Dependence upon foreign oil creates unavoidable military commitments and adventurism.

A pragmatic conservative can recognize that electrified transit, HrSR and HSR would lessen transportation costs for household incomes. If all three electrified transportation services were broadly available there would be more household income available for other consumption.

A pragmatic conservative recognizes that an electrified non-oil based transportation would create freight cost savings benefiting all shippers and ultimately consumers.

A pragmatic conservative recognizes that an electrified transportation system will lessen the trade deficit, lessen competition among nations for oil thus lessening the intensity and need for military for military adventurism.

An ideological conservative worries whether or not an abortion provider might use transit, HrSR or HSR.

An ideological conservative worries whether or not a person can conceal carry a handgun on transit, HrSR or HSR.

An ideological conservative is upset that an electrified transportation system will lessen CO2 emissions likely lessening global warming.

An ideological conservative will be concerned that the Ten Commandments be displayed in transit, HrSR and HSR stops, stations and vehicles.

Whether an electrified transportation system might be built in the USA will depend upon pragmatic conservatives and others.

Could generalized conservative truculence lead to destructive paralysis and stalemate?

Monday, July 9, 2012

California HSR News

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article describing French and Japanese observations and concerns about the California HSR planning process. The Japanese disagreed with the California integration of freight railroad tracks for access to metro stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The French disagreed upon the route selection in central California.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

California HSR Thoughts

California has a state GDP,  gross domestic product of $1,958.9 billion or about $1.95 trillion.
(See Department of Commerce, Bureau Economic Analysis:

California's GDP in comparison to other countries places it as being the 9th largest economy in the world after Italy and before India. (See:

California's budgetary problems are problems caused by beliefs in how a government is to be funded and in the purpose of government. Ultimately government exists to protect life and property. Whose life and whose property; how and why life and property is protected defines the government.

A government owned high speed rail system is a system that is capable of being built by all the citizens of California. Once built it may or may not be operated by California. That will be seen.

As an economic tool, the high speed rail system will contribute to California's economic strength just as such systems have contributed to the economic strength of France, Germany, Japan, etc.

Today it is not possible to begin and end a trip in California without reliance upon an oil propelled transportation mode.

It is possible to begin and end a trip in Italy, a place with a GDP slightly ahead of California's GDP, without relying upon an oil propelled transportation mode.

It was once possible to begin and end a trip in the USA without relying upon an oil based transportation mode.

The United States needs to build a higher speed (HrSR) rail system for the whole United States starting by upgrading the existing freight railroad system to higher speed rail capability. Higher speed rail (HrSR) capability is speed up to 110 mph. That can be accomplished through electrification of freight railroads. Doing so would create a transportation system capable of supporting higher freight train speeds compatible with passenger train speeds. Such universal passenger train service would be the feeder system to high speed rail (HSR) speeds up to 220 mph.

California Legislature OKs State HSR Effort

 California legislature OKs state HSR effort  From RAILWAY AGE 7/6/12

THIS is a 220 mph system!!

California High-Speed Rail Authority Statement on Passage of SB 1029

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California High-Speed Rail Authority Board Chair Dan Richard today issued the following statement regarding the Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 1029 which appropriates federal grant funds and Prop 1A funds for California High-Speed Rail:

            “Today’s vote to commence high-speed rail construction, like all major public policy decisions, is the result of hard work and collaborative effort.  Credit must go to Governor Brown whose courage and steadfast leadership has improved the High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans and operations,” said California High-Speed Rail Authority Chair Dan Richard.  “We also express deep gratitude to Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for passing this measure through their houses. The Legislature’s action sets in motion a Statewide Rail Modernization Plan for California.  Not only will California be the first state in the nation to build a high-speed rail system to connect our urban centers, we will also modernize and improve rail systems at the local and regional level.  This plan will improve mobility for commuters and travelers alike, reduce emissions, and put thousands of people to work while enhancing our economic competitiveness,” said Richard.

Link to Senate Bill 1029:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keystone West High Speed Rail Study

Here is the outline for a recent (5/22/12) briefing by PennDOT as to the status for the Keystone West High Speed Rail Study:

Initial Work Order (1) and study initiated late Spring 2011.
     *  Initial work included prepartion of Worplan for FRA and approval.

Following Workplan approval, began development of Legislative Briefing Packet, website, and
Prior Studies Report.
     *  Legislative briefing packet distributed June 2011, a copy has been sent to Brent Sullivan.
     *  Developed link on "Plan the Keystone" website to update public on KWHSR efforts    
     *  Prior Studies effort included assessment of more than a dozen studies completed over last
         20 years to gather useful data.

Reached out to Amtrak and NS with initial meetings in 2011: April 25th and June 30th.

Drawing in large part on data drawn from Prior Stuies Report, updated with  current census data, etc., 
prepared "Project Purpose, Needs and Goals Report." Report concluded:
     *  Improved corridor mobility and access is supportable goal.
     *  Service and travel time disparities between Keystone West and Keystone East corridors merit
         attention and long term gap closure.
     *  Corridor has an extensive array of travel generators that bode well for market development.
     *  Phased improvements are necessary to support rail network connectivity (PA and beyond).
     *  Community and economic development can be bolstered through improved corridor access
         and travel alternatives.
     *  Transportation system redundancy is strategically important for the corridor and the Common-
     *  Pennsylvania's socio-demographics underscore need for a more multimodal approach to
         transportation planning and system development.
     *  Envionmental benefits of rail passenger transportation justify reasonable efforts to promote
         this mode.
     * A focus on improving existing  transportation assets is a pragmatic approach in an era of
        severe fiscal constraint.
     *  Freight-passenger challenges demand innovative methods and institutional cooperation.
     *  Pennsylvania must be prepared and be able to adapt to change (Marcellus Shale, technology,

Overall goals for the study include:
     *  Increase passenger train speeds and reduce travel times.
     *  Incrementally increase service frequency with ultimate goal of 8 round trips daily.
     *  Improve access and connectivity.
     *  Improve passenger rail amenities to complement other improvements.
     *  Establish effective institutional partnerships.

Based on identified needs and goals, began an analysis of alternative concepts to increase frequency and improve travel times along the corridor. Resulted in 4 alternative concepts described in Conceptual Alternative Paper:
     * Concept 1 - Operational improvements along the existing corridor and between Amtrak and NS
         and minimal infrastructures improvements generally within existing ROW. (Cost $0.5B).
     *  Concept 2 - Operational improvements with modest infrastructure improvements at key loca-
         tions along the corridor - includes new track and curve straightening at key locations.
         (Cost $1.0B).
     *  Concept 3 - Operational improvement along with major infrastructure improvements including
         an additional track the entire length of the corridor to provide for separated passenger service.
         ( Cost $1.5B).
     *  Concept 4 - New passenger only high speed rail line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh,
         generally following the Pennsylvania Turnpike or other major transportation corridor. (Cost

Report recommended further evaluation and assessment of Concepts 2 and 3 based on cost and potential for service improvement along corridor.

Initial work also included development of GIS base-mapping oc corridor showing key resources and constraints based on available secondary source data and a preliminary operations model to help support evaluation of alternative concepts.

Work Order 2 initiated November 2011 - primary focus is the Preliminary Service Development Plan (PSDP) and further exploration of Alternative Concepts 2 and 3 to build the "Menu of Options" for the final feasibility study.

Not unlike the Department's "Decade of Investment," our goal is to identify  decade (or some other timeframe to be determined) of improvements that can be implemented over time along the corridor that individually and collectively lead to meeting the goals discussed above.

Work Order 2 tasks expected to be completed in 3 - 4 months - includes update to legislative briefing packet and distribution, update to Plan the Keystone website, advancing  the PSDP through refinement of conceptual engineering, operational analysis and demand estimating, meeting with business and community leader in Altoona and initial efforts to outline the final Feasibility Report.

Work Order 3 (anticipated late Spring / Summer 2012) will provide for final assessment of alternatives, further enhancements to the PSDP, development of feasibility Report and outreach to legislative and community / public interests.

Current Issues of Concern:
NS resistance to any increase in passenger service along the corridor.

Potential loss of funding for Pennsylvania due to PRIIA 209 cost allocations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


In the Spring 1999 of a periodical called THE KEYSTONE published by the Pennsylvania Railroad Historical and Technical Society an article appeared describing the "Samuel Rea Line." Samuel Rea retired from being the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1925. His most famous engineering achievement was the construction of the Penn Station and tunnels at New York City completed in 1910. The article indicated that preliminary surveys for a railroad capable of 90 mph were supervised by Samuel Rea for the PRR Board in 1926. The dedicated passenger line was to leave the existing 90 mph mainline at Fort Wayne, Indiana and be built across Ohio and Pennsylvania connecting with the PRR mainline at Lewistown, Pennsylvania. It would have lessened the PRR distance from Chicago to New York City by 100 miles.

In an attempt to learn more about the basis for the article, an attempt was made to contact its author without success. Contact with the Hagley Museum at Wilmington, Delaware, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Strasburg, Pennsylvania; major repositories for Pennsylvania Railroad archives, came up empty. The absence of more information about the basis for the article is probably due to a a fire at Philadelphia's Broad Street Station in 1943. Substantial volumes of PRR records stored there were destroyed in the fire.

The route across Pennsylvania would have required 22 tunnels. The longest tunnel would have been north of Altoona and south of Tyrone. That west to east tunnel would have been 29,400 feet or 5.57 miles long. Steam locomotives would have had their fires banked and the passenger trains hauled through the long tunnel by electric locomotives. It would have taken a civil engineer of the caliber of the Samuel Rea to have have supervised such a preliminary survey.

The yellow line represents the proposed Samuel Rea Line noted as SRL. The PRR mainline is shown in blue. The Conemaugh line from the Northside of Pittsburgh to Bolivar, Pennsylvania is shown in dark red / brown. Northwest of Pittsburgh, near Rochester, Pennsylvania a dotted line shows a new connection from the mainline to a place called Ogle for a connection with the Samuel Rea Line. Northeast of Pittsburgh near Kiski Junction across the Allegheny River from Freeport a dotted line shows where a proposed connection with the Connemaugh Division would have been made at a place called Godfrey, Pennsylvania. All tunnel locations have their length in feet indicated.

Was the equipment operated by the PRR in 1926 capable of 90 mph operation? Yes. Was their larger passenger locomotive, the K4 type, capable of sustained 90 mph operation? Yes. Was the smaller PRR passenger locomotive, the E6 type, capable of faster operation? Yes - 115 mph.

The Samuel Rea Line is shown in yellow.  The Allegheny summit would have been attained to the west of a large 14,750 foot tunnel that would have been built between Alburn and St. Lawrence, Pennsylvania. The mainline is in blue. The Conemaugh division is in dark red / brown.
The west portal of the 5.57 mile tunnel proposed for the Samuel Rea Line in yellow would have been near Frugality, Pennsylvania. Connection with the PRR mainline would have been made at the west portal of the 9200 foot tunnel through Brush mountain between Tyrone to the north and Altoona to the south. Other connections to the PRR mainline would have been made in the vicinity of Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania.

Had the Samuel Rea Line been built, it would not have had a grade exceeding 0.6 per cent. It would likely have been easily upgraded for 125 mph operation either by diesel locomotives or electric locomotives. 

The proposed Samuel Rea line demonstrates that an actual High Speed Rail HSR across the Alleghenies would and require a substantial number of tunnels.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Coal Carloadings and Railroad Industry

As has been mentioned, one cost of coal is the amount of time in which a heavy, low powered train occupies a right of way. The slow speed affects operations for faster trains.

The railroad industry has been affected this year by reduced coal carloadings due to a mild winter. See May Issue 2012 of RAILWAY AGE Magazine, page one at: and data at Carloadings are off 16 per cent year to year.

Where will the coal business be in the future? A strategic long term discussion was made by Gilbert and Perl in "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil."

There is a future probability for significantly less coal carloadings. It is peak coal which has arrived.

They noted, "Coal's availability is often assumed to be limitless or at least sufficient to allow expanded use for decades. For example, a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that consumption of coal in energy terms could rise by 348 per cent between 2000 and 2050 (i.e. 3 per cent per year). The IEA suggests that proven reserves of coal could allow for 164 years of consumption at current rates, compared with 64 years or natural gas and 42 years for oil.'

"Other sources suggest that mineable global coal resources are much smaller. These include a recent report by Germany's  Energy Watch Group that points to the unreliability of data on proven reserves of coal. The most extreme example given was that Germany itself, reported as having downgraded her proven hard coal reserves in 2004 by 99 per cent from 23 billion tons to 0.183 billion tons. Botswana and the UK have also downgraded reserves by more than 90 per cent during the last two decades. Only Australia - the major coal exporter  - and India have reported growing reserves. China - by far the major producers and user (39 per cent of the world consumption in 2006) - has reported exactly the same reserves of coal each year since 1992, even though subsequent consumption and loss through uncontrollable fires amount to a quarter of this total. The report suggests that China's coal production will peak in about 2015.'

'The U.S. is the second major consumer of coal and has by far the largest proven reserves (about 27 per cent of the world total). It uses less than 0.5 per cent of its reserves each year, but production of high quality hard coal (anthracite and bituminous coal) has already peaked - but the growth had been in less energy dense sub-bituminous and lignite coals. Production in energy terms reached a peak in 1998 and has since fallen by about 4 per cent. The report's authors suggest that U.S. production volumes could be further increased, but only until about 2025, when they will inevitably decline. Production in energy terms could  begin to increase again but would reach a maximum - before the volumetric peak - that would be no more than about 20 per cent above the current value . World volumetric production of coal would also peak in about 2025, with an earlier peak in energy terms." (See pages 138 and 139  of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil.")

A major source of railroad industry revenue faces a decline. The nature of the transportation services provided by the railroad industry without coal carloadings would likely be well served by electrification. Electrification would enable faster operations and denser utilization of the scarce line haul railroad infrastructure.

Feds to California: Start HSR action by June


Maybe the TRA Transportation Redevelopment AGency would be a better idea for getting the high speed railroad project underway?

Feds to California: Start HSR action by June

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Paying for National Infrastructure on National Level

Mr. Stephen Stofka,  a Philadelphian, at his blog addressed "Paying for National Infrastructure on National Level. His comprehensive thoughts are at

Mr Stofka recently graduated from Temple University with a Bachelors in Geography and Urban Studies. He notes on his blog the ability to undertake urban, site, environmental, and transportation planning, and is an expert in ArcGIS, Microsoft Office, PCs, and Macs, and am intermediate in Adobe Creative Suite. He has experience in web content development, most notably with His studies focused upon urban and transportation planning.

Looking at his analysis together with Gilbert's and Perl's recommendation to create a US "Transportation Redevelopment Agency" argues for a new way to approach land transportation in the country.

PT Equals TRA

As Gilbert and Perl explain, if a Federal "Transportation Redevelopment Agency" (TRA) were created to create a new non-oil based transportation system; the key is to plan for "policy termination." (PT).

An example of policy termination gone awry was the minting of Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. The simple goal to eliminate the cost of the dollar bill by conversion to a coin was a logical government cost savings. There were no plans for terminating the paper dollar other than creating the coin. Absent a policy termination plan, the coins were unused.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Building a Non - Oil Based Transportation System

The basis for the proposal in the 2008 "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil" by Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl for an electrically powered transportation system is oil scarcity and peak oil.

Electricity can be created without relying upon oil.

For persons who doubt the arguments for peak oil; competition for the scarce resource of oil has caused and is causing warfare and turmoil.

A non - oil based transportation system would make troublesome countries and their people not troublesome. They would no longer be important. Making the oil in a troublesome territory unimportant should be a national goal.

While the emphasis of this blog has been to electrify and rebuild the existing railroad infrastructure from semi - speed to higher speed capability; Gilbert and Perl advocate for a non - oil based transportation for the highway mode as well. That would be accomplished with electrical grid connected vehicles (GCV) in one or another of various configurations.

Gilbert and Perl suggest that to launch the revolution for a complete non - oil based transportation requires the termination of all highway and airport expansion plans and programmes.  (The spelling of "programmes" is the English practice Gilbert and Perl adopted.)

As they explain, "The skill and effort needed to remove existing policies and dismantle established programmes is far from trivial.  Lack of focus on policy termination has undermined many efforts by leaders - across the spectrum of political orientation - to change the direction of U.S. policy. These efforts include, for example, the Carter administration's agenda of government leadership in energy conservation of the late 1970s and the Reagan administration's goal of replacing Social Security pensions with private alternatives in the 1980s. Failures to terminate existing policies have undermined the key priorities of more than these presidents. One analyst noted that the political dynamics of terminating established public policies differ fundamentally from those involved in creating new policies because '...distinctive coalitions generally form on both sides... and that termination contests are usually more bitter and harder to win than most policy adoption contests.'"

"Policy termination." What a useful phrase. It describes in two words the current conflict in the political process. Improved and / or new policy and/ or adjusted policy often requires "policy termination." Gilbert and Perl provide ideas as to how to engage in "policy termination" specific to creating a transport revolution as follows:

" A clear principle would thus be useful for justifying the end of programmes that support oil-powered mobility in the U.S. The logic is that of no loner digging once the determination to get out  of a hole has been reached. Many of the previous efforts in the U.S. to cultivate energy-efficient transport alternatives - including local public  transport  and intercity rail passenger improvements - have been undermined by simultaneous additions to road and airport capacity, usually paid for with earmarked trust funds from fuel and other taxes. Such an approach to transport development, which some portray as 'balanced' spending, is analogous to applying a car's accelerator and brake at the same time. The result undermines the performance of both systems and eventually destroys the engine. The onset of the next transport revolutions should be most noticeable for what stops happening, namely the expansion of highways and airports. A scan of the U.S. federal budget suggests the magnitude of resources that could then become available following such redeployment."

"US DOT's budget proposal anticipates spending $37 billion in 2008 to reduce the congestion of America's roads, rails and airways. Such funding would build upon decades of similar spending aimed at adding more air and road infrastructure to move ever-expanding volumes of cars and planes. Once oil depletion is recognized as a constraint on future growth of driving and flying, spending such large amounts on expanding capacity could be seen as wasteful and counterproductive, even amid the pleas against termination by those who gain great benefits from continuing such efforts."

" could expect at least $50 billion a year to be reallocated to developing  the infrastructure and accelerating the diffusion of electric traction in America's road and rail network. This could include conversion of many airports into 'travelports' (multimodal transprt hubs) that connect the remaining international and long-distance flights to electric road and rail feeders... Other airports and sections of urban highway infrastructure could be decommissioned, as much as military installations are still being decommissioned after the Cold War."

"This spending transition would create fierce opposition from interests that see themselves as economic loses from such changes. Government will have to anticipate such opposition, defusing it with incentives for change and compensation for losses. The incentives will be generated by the $50 billion in annual spending that will go into electrification and expansion of rail corridors, major road networks in metropolitan areas and massive expansion of traditional and 'advanced' public transit systems. Existing producers of electric-powered transport will reap a windfall from this bonanza, as will firms that rush to join this sector by adding traction and related technology to their product lines." (See pages 281 and 282 of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil")

Funding as recommended by  Gilbert and Perl together with a temporary, small tariff and specific investment incentives could achieve building a non - oil transportation system in record time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rebuilding the Railroad System for Higher Speed -TRANSPORTATION REDEVLOPMENT AUTHORITY

Land transport in the US faces severe capacity constraints by 2030, both highway and rail.

Land transport in the US is based upon oil.

Land transport in the US is imbalanced toward the highway mode.

Anthony Gilbert and Anthony Perl in their book, "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil," advocate for the electrification of the railroad system. They characterize the need to overcome a transport system that relies upon oil, facing capacity constraints and imbalanced towards highways as requiring a revolution in applying established technology to accomplish.

They recommend that to launch the rebuilding of the railroad system for higher speed requires a transport redevelopment agency.  They note that "no good candidate for such a role among the myriad government agencies and private firms that contribute to America's current transport planning. They include industyr associations and several government departments, not only those concerned mostly with transport but also, for example, the armed forces, which have often been concerned with the capacity and technology of America's civilian transport and have recently focused on oil depletion as a strtegic challenge. This will all need to be involved in developing the plan for a redesigned transport syste. However, this restructuring will best be facilitated by a new entity that leaves aside much of the baggage of existing in and approaches to moving people and freight in the U.S. The new agency should be constituted as a transparent, inclusive and fair enabler of the considerable efforts that lie ahead.'

'The mandate for an agency to guide the redesign will need to come from the top, meaning the U.S. president. We propose a name such as the 'Transportation Redevelopment Administration' (TRA),  which signals what the organization will be about and provides a relevant and unambiguous acronym. TRA would have a board charied by the U.S. vice-president whose emebers include the secretaaries of Defense, Energy, Treasury and Transportation. As well, state, county and city governments sshould be represented on TRA's board TRA should draw upon the expertise associated with the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and affiliate of the NAtional Academy of Sciences that assembles America's analytical and technological expertise in over 200 standing committies involved in every aspect of mobility.'

'TRA would draw on past U.S. experience in creating public agencies to develop innovative solutions to serious challenges. Earlier organizations overseeing considerable social and economic redesign efforts include the Reconstruction Finance Corporation established by President Hoover in 1932, the Tennessee Valley Authority inaugarated by President Roosevelt in 1933, the United States Railway Association created by President Nixon in 1973, and the Air Stabilization Board signed into law by Presidnet G.W. Bush on 22 September 2001. The last organization had the job of using loan guarantees to sustain the U.S. airline industry, hurt by terrorist attacks 11 days earlier and their aftermath. TRA would combine elements of each of these agencies' structure to serve four key functions.'

'First, TRA would provide a forum for consultation with industry, organized labour and interested citizens on changes that would create considerable new benefits, as well as impose real burdens.. Second, TRA would become a repository of manageral and technical expertise in enerrgy-efficieient transport redesign.
Third, TRA would serve as a banker and broker  for financing deployment of the technology and infrastructure needed to make electric traction the prime mover in the U.S. *
Fourth, TRA would become an assessor and evaluator of the work in progress to redesign American mobility. TRA could thus be seen as a 'superagency' along the lines of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which grew quickly and assumed wide-ranging responsibilities in its mission to keep AMericans secure on the home front.'

'DHS grew through the rapid transfer and adaptation of pre-existing government programmes, from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. So could TRA gain momentum rapidly through staff and resource transfers from agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), which has some 55,000 employees and has proposed a $67-billion budget for 2008. Among agencies wothin the US DOT umbrella are the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Higway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration. Many employees of US DOT and its agencies, and many from among the tens of thousands working on transport issues in state and local governments, could quickly migrate to TRA's planning, design and finance departments..." ( See pages 279 and 280 of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil.")

* The major source of funding for rebuilding railroads and electrification:

"Countries facing balance of payment difficulty may apply import restrictions under provisions in the GATT 1994 agreement and under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)." SEE World Trade Organization website for details :

Alan Drake in "A Citizen's Guide to an Oil Free Economy," notes the following:
"World Trade Organization (WTO) rules allow a nation with a long term structural trade deficit (And the USA certainly qualifies!) to place a unilateral tariff on all "non-essential" imports so long as the proceeds from the tariff are used exclusively to reduce the structural trade deficit and there is no preferential treatment in the application of the tariff."

"Oil imports are a major part of the "long term structural trade deficit" of the United States of America. This plan (electrification) will reduce US oil imports by substantial amounts. Therefore, a substantial fraction of the governmental costs to implement this plan could be financed by a 1% to 2% tariff on a broad range of imports."

"The initial reaction from foreign governments may not be positive, but our diplomats can assure them that this new tariff:

1.) is according to WTO rules. In fact, this is precisely why this exemption exists.

2.) will be effective in reducing US competition for available oil exports, which is very much in the self interest of oil importers and even oil exporters.
3.) will be effective in reducing US carbon emissions, which is in everyone's interest."

And furthermore, it is the only politically possible way that the US will do anything meaningful about either oil consumption or Climate Change. Thus, it is in their enlightened self interest to not object to the US financing part of the program with a broad but small tariff on imports. And, if the tariff is implemented according to WTO rules, they have no other recourse under international law."

See Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas - USA, Alan S. Drake: