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wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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BNSF plans $202 million capital program in Nebraska


Wednesday, May 02, 2012


BNSF plans to invest an estimated $202 million on maintenance and rail capacity improvement and expansion projects in Nebraska this year.

BNSF's 2012 capacity enhancement projects in Nebraska include adding a second mainline track in the Grand Island area, beginning work to replace BNSF's bridge over the Missouri River between Plattsmouth, Neb., and Pacific Jct., Iowa, expansion of BNSF's Lincoln locomotive shop, improvements to BNSF's Havelock car shop and significant signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control.

BNSF will also continue its track maintenance program in Nebraska, which will include 1,405 miles of track surfacing and undercutting work and the replacement of 100 miles of rail and about 140,000 crossties.

"BNSF's investments will improve our ability to provide rail freight services to Nebraska businesses and communities and will expand opportunities to create more jobs and growth for the Nebraska economy," said Matthew Rose, chairman and chief executive officer.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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Southern California Triple Track Project breaks ground


Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Caltrans, BNSF and Amtrak broke ground on a $38 million rail project that will add 3.8 additional miles of track to the Los Angeles area, increasing efficiency and rail capacity.

The project is fully-funded by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the Federal Railroad Administration and is part of a larger $163 million, 15-mile mainline track expansion between the cities of Commerce and Fullerton, known as the Triple Track Project, which lays an additional third track next to two existing lines.

"In a densely populated urban region such as Los Angeles, passenger and freight rail lines often compete for track access," said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. "This project makes it possible for us to better serve the public by helping to alleviate congestion and improve on-time performance."

Construction of the Triple Track Project is divided into eight segments of mainline capital improvements. In addition to improving safety and reducing noise, completion of all 15 miles of the new track will allow for expanded passenger and commuter rail service through the corridor.

"BNSF and Caltrans share a long-term commitment to improve the efficiency of rail transportation in California," said D.J. Mitchell, BNSF assistant vice president, passenger services. "Investments such as this will help improve rail passenger service, while maintaining consistent and reliable rail freight capabilities within the region."

"Amtrak continues to look forward to the implementation of all track improvements to the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor," said Michael Chandler, Amtrak general superintendent, Southwest Division.

 

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

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BNSF Railway Company has said it plans to invest an estimated $202 million on maintenance and rail capacity improvement and expansion projects in Nebraska this year.

BNSF’s 2012 capacity enhancement projects in Nebraska include adding a second main line track in the Grand Island area, beginning work to replace BNSF’s bridge over the Missouri River between Plattsmouth, Neb., and Pacific Jct., Iowa, expansion of BNSF’s Lincoln locomotive shop, improvements to BNSF’s Havelock car shop, and significant signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control (PTC).

BNSF will also continue its robust track maintenance program in Nebraska, which will include 1,405 miles of track surfacing and undercutting work, and the replacement of 100 miles of rail and about 140,000 ties.

“BNSF’s investments will improve our ability to provide rail freight services to Nebraska businesses and communities, and will expand opportunities to create more jobs and growth for the Nebraska economy,” said Matthew K. Rose, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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US-based freight transport company BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) has revealed a plan to invest $200m this year to expand capacity and maintain infrastructure in Nebraska, US.

The project includes building a second main line track in the Grand Island area and initial work to replace a bridge over the Missouri River, between Plattsmouth and Pacific Junction in Iowa.

Part of the investment will also go towards the expansion of the company's Lincoln locomotive shop, improvements to Havelock car shop and signal upgrades, as part of the new positive train control (PTC) system.

BNSF Railway chairman and chief executive office Matthew K. Rose said: "BNSF's investments will improve our ability to provide rail freight services to Nebraska businesses and communities, and will expand opportunities to create more jobs and growth for the Nebraska economy."

In addition, BNSF will also carry out surfacing work on 1,405 miles of track, as well as replace 100 miles of rail and 140,000 ties.

The investment is part of BNSF's $3.9bn capital investment plan for 2012, which will include $2.1bn spent on the core network and about $1.1bn set aside for locomotives, freight cars and equipment.

Another $300m will be invested on the US government-mandated PTC system, while $400m will be spent on terminal, line and intermodal expansion and efficiency projects.

Last year, the company earmarked $3.5bn in capital expenditure, which included $2bn on its core network.

About $450m was allocated for the purchase of 227 locomotives and $350m for freight car and other equipment acquisitions.

 

Image: BNSF's investment will be spent on building a second main line track and investment on signal upgrades as part PTC system. Photo: courtesy of Ron Reiring

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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The Port of Tacoma, Wash., recently unveiled a 10-year strategic development plan.

The plan includes nearly 50 initiatives and focuses on four main areas: making strategic investments that enhance rail, road, waterway, terminal and industrial property infrastructure; creating opportunities for future investments by attracting new business opportunities; bolstering business relationships with customers and key stakeholders; and growing the port responsibly.

“The port embarked on the strategic plan to position itself for success among significant competitive shifts in the global shipping industry and a still-sluggish U.S. economy,” port officials said in a prepared statement.

Specific initiatives outlined in the plan include:
• expanding Tideflats rail to receive and deliver mile-and-a-half-long unit trains;
• adding a second rail crossing over the Puyallup River;
• developing a new bulk facility on the Blair Waterway;
• adopting zero-emission technologies at cargo terminals; and
• redeveloping and expanding a peninsula into a highly efficient container terminal capable of handling the world’s largest ships.

 “These projects are necessary for the port to remain competitive,” said the port’s Chief Executive Officer John Wolfe. “I am confident we can make it happen.”

Tacoma Rail provides switching and terminal rail services at the port, and nearby intermodal yards are served by BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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A fire that ignited accidentally as a chemist was testing diesel fuel did an estimated $75,000 damage early Monday afternoon in a laboratory on BNSF Railway property, authorities said. No one was hurt.

Shift Commander Mike Thompson, of the Topeka Fire Department, said firefighters were called at 12:21 p.m. to the scene, which Investigator Michael Martin identified as being in a ventilation hood within the BNSF Rail Yard Chemical Testing Lab at 100 N.E. Jefferson Trafficway, Building 8.

Thompson said a chemist had been testing fuel when the hood that pulled the exhaust out of the building failed, igniting the blaze. Smoke damage was reported throughout the building, he said.

Martin said fire suppression crews arrived to find heavy black smoke coming from the building’s roof vents.

“Fire crews initiated an interior attack of the fire and quickly extinguished the blaze,” he said. “A primary and secondary search of the lab revealed the occupants had self-evacuated prior to the arrival of the Topeka Fire Department.”

Martin said investigation revealed the fire originated in a fuel testing containment area.

“The fire was determined to be accidental in nature, and associated with the failure of the testing area ventilation system,” he said.

Martin said no hazardous or volatile chemicals posed any risk to the public as a result of the blaze.

He said estimated damages amounted to $15,000 to the building and $60,000 to its contents.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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***

Angelo Logan wasn't at the Berkshire meeting to buy a box of peanut brittle and listen to Charlie Munger.

He wanted to talk to Warren Buffett, but not about money.

The Long Beach, Calif., man — with a 6-foot-tall cardboard inhaler sitting next to him on the sidewalk outside the CenturyLink Center — was looking to chat about air pollution.

BNSF Railway, a Berkshire-owned company, has plans to build a rail yard near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Logan said several residents and advocacy groups in the area are concerned that the project would bring harmful pollution and lead to all kinds of health problems for residents — a “diesel death zone,” he said.

Logan came to Omaha with nine other advocates. On Friday, they tried to pay Buffett a visit at his office.

“We saw the front-desk person and told his secretary that we were requesting a meeting, if he just had two minutes,” Logan said. “She said he was too busy.”

The anti-pollution group also attended the Borsheims reception on Friday night and had plans to demonstrate at the barbecue Saturday night at Nebraska Furniture Mart.

During the meeting, two members of Logan's group held up a large, hand-painted sign outside of the meeting. It read: “Dear Mr. Warren Buffett: Help us grow pollution free.”

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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With a $40,000 financial boost, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway will help nearly 100 World War II veterans will make the inaugural flight to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorial in June.

The gift will also help with fundraising for a second trip.

Zak Andersen, assistant vice president of community and public affairs for BNSF, said $20,000 will be for the first trip in June and $20,000 will be seed money for a second trip tentatively planned for September or October.

"BNSF has long been a part of the Billings and the larger Montana community and we have a long history of supporting veterans," Andersen said.

He said the donation was made to respect the work of the Honor Flight and the courage of Montana's veterans.

The American Legion Post 18 and VFW Post 4925 of Roundup contributed $500 each toward the effort on Wednesday.

The first flight will leave Billings Logan International Airport on June 15 at 8 a.m., and the next day return to a "heroes welcome" at about 8:30 p.m. The trip will include stops at national memorials and landmarks in the Washington area, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Korean War memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and Iwo Jima. The featured stop will be the National World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004 as a tribute to the millions of Americans who served.

The veterans will also be guests at a dinner and reception in Washington.

The nonstop chartered flight will cost about $150,000 and will be paid for entirely with donations as part of Big Sky Honor Flight, a statewide nonprofit organization.

Top priority is being given to terminally ill veterans. More than 260 veterans have already applied to make the first flight. They are between the ages of 85 and 95. Since the campaign began in October, six of the veterans hoping to make the trip have died.

"Time really is of the essence," said Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, a member of the Big Sky Honor Flight.

Bill and Peg Woolston of Billings, both World War II veterans, will be part of the inaugural flight.

Noting the average age of the group, Bill, 90, joked, "I just hope the pilot is not one of us."

The Woolstons said it is an honor and privilege to be included in this first flight. They had applied nearly two years ago, hoping to be included as part of the Denver program because Montana did not have one.

"I just hope I can make it until June," said Peg Woolston, 92.

The entire experience, Bill added, "will be overwhelming. It seems like June is forever away."

Honor Flight was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain from Ohio. In May 2005, Morse arranged for six small planes to transport 12 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial.

By the end of the first year Honor Flight had transported 137 World War II veterans to see the memorial. By the end of 2011, the national Honor Flight network had flown about 83,000 veterans to see the memorial. Thirty-three states now have the Honor Flight program.

The National World War II Memorial pays homage to the 16 million Americans who served during the war

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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As the sunny Saturday wore on, it looked increasingly as if the narrative that anticoal activist Kevin Washbrook pulled out at 5:41 on the morning of May 5 would hold true.

“It’s still early hours, but at this point it looks like one Twitter account [@StopCoalBC] and half a dozen people willing to get arrested and Warren Buffett has walked away,” Washbrook told the media gathered at the White Rock waterfront, part of the daily route where the billionaire philanthropist’s railway company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. sends coal trains en route for exporting their cargo out of Delta.

According to Myles Hogan, another member of Stop Coal, the loose group of activists to whom Washbrook belongs, this is a good first step in the group’s goal of shutting down coal exports.

“We’ve stopped six shipments of coal and we’ve sent a strong message,” Hogan said of the total number of shipments cited by Washbrook as the daily quota.

By the time the Straight left in midafternoon, no BNSF representative had shown up. White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Lesli Roseberry told those gathered that one would be provided once that person had made it up from the United States, where BNSF is headquartered.

Flanked by sergeants Peter Thiessen and Dave Smith, Roseberry said she had no intention of disrupting a group carrying out its legal right to protest.

BNSF already had a court injunction against Bruce Mohun and Peter Nix from Stop Coal and anyone trespassing on the BNSF right-of-way.

“People can walk every day across here,” Roseberry said during the 15-minute media conference. “And that’s okay. I think, if there’s a train coming down the track, and you’re going to impede that train in any way, and possibly put yourself in danger and other people, then that’s a different story. Then we have to reassess.”

Later in the afternoon, one train carrying coal showed up, and about 14 protesters were arrested

Close to 40 activists were present throughout the day, including high-profile SFU professor Mark Jaccard, coordinator of the university's Energy and Materials Research Group and former chair of the B.C. Utilities Commission. Also on scene was former Vancouver COPE councillor Fred Bass.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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BNSF Railway Co., CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. recently landed on CivilianJobs.com’s list of the “Most Valuable Employers for Military®” for 2012. The list also includes Schenider National Inc., General Electric Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Booz Allen Hamilton.

An online resource that aims to connect military personnel with employment opportunities nationwide, CivilianJobs.com selects the top employers based on surveys covering each company’s specific policies for military service members and veterans involving recruiting, training and retention. Winners were chosen based on the strength and relevance of their programs.

CSX has a long-standing commitment to hiring veterans and reservists — nearly one in five employees has served in the military, CSX officials said in a prepared statement. This year, the Class I plans to hire 1,000 veterans. Earlier this year, the railroad received the Military Officers Association of America Distinguished Service Award, and company is the only two-time winner of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, CSX officials said.

"We are honored to be named a top military employer for the fourth year in a row,” said Lisa Mancini, CSX’s senior vice president and chief administrative officer. “Our employees who are active or former service members bring countless valuable skills to their jobs, including an emphasis on teamwork and attention to detail that keeps our railroad operating safely and efficiently.”

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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BNSF Railway Co., CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. recently landed on CivilianJobs.com’s list of the “Most Valuable Employers for Military®” for 2012. The list also includes Schenider National Inc., General Electric Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Booz Allen Hamilton.

An online resource that aims to connect military personnel with employment opportunities nationwide, CivilianJobs.com selects the top employers based on surveys covering each company’s specific policies for military service members and veterans involving recruiting, training and retention. Winners were chosen based on the strength and relevance of their programs.

CSX has a long-standing commitment to hiring veterans and reservists — nearly one in five employees has served in the military, CSX officials said in a prepared statement. This year, the Class I plans to hire 1,000 veterans. Earlier this year, the railroad received the Military Officers Association of America Distinguished Service Award, and company is the only two-time winner of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, CSX officials said.

"We are honored to be named a top military employer for the fourth year in a row,” said Lisa Mancini, CSX’s senior vice president and chief administrative officer. “Our employees who are active or former service members bring countless valuable skills to their jobs, including an emphasis on teamwork and attention to detail that keeps our railroad operating safely and efficiently.”

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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Thirteen activists, including a Nobel Peace Prize winning economist, have been arrested in a coal train blockade, after Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) was granted a pre-emptive court order.

BNSF, owned by billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett, served roughly 40 anti-coal blockaders in White Rock with pre-emptive injunctions this morning from the BC Supreme Court, backed up by a dozen RCMP officers who appeared to be helping them serve court orders by identifying leaders of the group.

The climate change activists -- including 100 Mile Diet author James MacKinnon, former COPE city councillor Fred Bass, and Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Dr. Mark Jaccard with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- stopped railway coal shipments in a symbolic attempt to oppose shipments set for export overseas.

At 9 a.m., a southbound train, carrying mostly timber, was allowed to pass, and soon afterwards BNSF employees arrived with a dozen RCMP officers, who helped the company identify spokespeople and serve their court order directly to protesters.

"So I'm thinking there's a guy talking on his phone over there," a female RCMP officer told BNSF representative Ken Davis, pointing into the crowd standing to the side of the railway tracks by White Rock Pier, before addressing the group herself. "Good morning everybody. Do you have a spokesman?"

When no spokesperson stepped forward, Davis weaved through the group serving the court order one-by-one. Today's blockade -- which includes "spotters" on the US side of the border to alert of approaching coal trains -- is part of a global day of action against climate change declared by the international group 350.org.

Activists said they are targeting coal shipments of BNSF Railway, which are arriving from the US, to be exported from Vancouver to Asian markets. Organizers said the coal should not be burned, as it will contribute to “irreversible” climate change.

An "extremely dangerous" protest

BNSF – which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett – promotes itself as “a leader in the rail industry for the protection of our air, land and water,” according to the company's website.

“Trespassing on live railroad property is extremely dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death,” BNSF spokesperson Suann Lundsberg told the Vancouver Observer. “It is not the proper forum for any discussion.

“There are other ways for people to express their views that do not endanger the safety of themselves and others. Rail carriers are required to provide rail service on reasonable request by shippers of commodities like coal.”

But one of the railway blockaders said that burning coal – like the Alberta oil sands and other fossil fuels – is an integral cause of climate change and must be stopped.

Former Vancouver City Councillor Fred Bass, participating in the protest, told the Vancouver Observer that he first got involved in the climate change issue on the city's Clouds of Change Task Force in 1989, when he became alarmed about the increase in carbon dioxide emissions. 22 years later, Bass said those early warnings have not been heeded by governments, and time is running out.

The rise in CO2 in the last 200 years is steeper than anything scientists have seen in hundreds of thousands of years," Bass said. "I lived in a time when gasoline was rationed, when meat was rationed, when sugar was rationed. It was the Second World War. 

"In fact, the threat we're under is much greater. It's going to be worse for our children, and even worse for our grandchildren. It's time for people who can put two-and-two together, to stand up and say, 'Government, get on the right track.'"

Another participant told the Vancouver Observer the blockade is a symbolic call for action on climate change -- action which he said is more urgent than ever.

“We're putting ourselves on the line . . . as a symbolic statement,” Vancouver's Kevin Washbrook told the Vancouver Observer. “Most scientists say we have 10 years or less to get emissions down or else face runaway, irreversible climate change.

“Some say five years. Some say it's already too late. I hope not, because I want my kids to have a future.”

Washbrook said that the message is aimed squarely at the government and the fossil fuel industry.

“Governments are in the service of the fossil fuel industry and they will collectively drive us past the point of no return if we don't stop them,” he said.

Will Warren Buffett take action against climate change?

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org – the global organization which put out the call for actions around the world under the banner "Connect the Dots" – said that BNSF coal shipments were chosen because the company is owned by billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett, who they hope will cease coal shipments and set an example.

“There’s a chance, I think, that their actions might work,” he wrote on Grist. “Thanks to brave activists on a lonely stretch of Canadian track, Warren Buffett will get the chance to face squarely the role he might play in solving our worst problem, not with future philanthropy but with present-day courage.

Though Buffett is merely “a single human being,” McKibben argued, as the owner of BNSF since 2009 he is a person “with power enough to make an immediate difference in the fight against climate change.”

But the company said that a blockade is not the proper channel for protest – not only is the action trespassing, but BNSF's operations are, in fact, environmentally sustainable. The firm is not able to choose which products are shipped on its lines, the spokesperson added.

“Rail is recognized around the world as the most environmentally preferred mode of transportation for all the products we are obligated to carry,” Lundsberg said. “A vibrant rail system creates a healthy flow of commerce, decreases carbon emissions and reduces highway congestion and improves passenger vehicle safety.”

Amongst the blockaders is economist Dr. Mark Jaccard, who teaches at Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management. Jaccard, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel peace prize in 2007. He said this is his first-ever civil disobedience action but the issue was too urgent to ignore.

“Within this decade we will either have steered away from disaster, or have locked ourselves onto a dangerous course,” Jaccard said. “We are putting ourselves on the line because our future is at risk and we have to stand up for it.

“I'm willing to engage in civil disobedience and risk arrest . . . to emphasize how important it is that we take urgent action to stop the actions that cause climate change. The window of opportunity for avoiding a high risk of runaway, irreversible climate change is closing quickly.”

At 9 a.m., police spokesperson Sgt. Peter Thiessen told the Vancouver Observer that so far, no law has been broken by the demonstrators -- who said they will not block the tracks until a coal train approaches -- but added that police are on hand to ensure no criminal acts are committed and there are no safety risks.

The court order, obtained yesterday in the BC Supreme Court by BNSF, had already been taped prominently to the railway crossing sign next to the pier, and several other places in the planned blockade site, by 6 a.m. when the Vancouver Observer arrived on scene. As dawn broke, demonstrators began gathering at the Pier railway crossing, and police shortly thereafter.

One event organizer suggested that it is unusual for a court order to pre-emptively cover both an injunction and enforcement order in advance of an event. The injunction -- which lasts until May 14 -- bans "physically obstructing, interrupting, restricting or otherwise impeding the rail operations . . . on or over the intersection of Martin Street and the White Rock Pier," and authorizes police to "arrest and remove" anyone who violates the injunction.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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A pair of U.S. senators is siding with captive shippers, saying they shouldn’t have to pay extra in shipping rates because an investment giant bought a major freight railroad.



Sen. Kent Conrad

U.S. Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., urged members of the Surface Transportation Board to reject an $8 billion addition to BNSF Railway Co.’s cost of doing business.

Berkshire Hathaway paid an $8 billion acquisition premium when it bought BNSF in 2010. Adding the premium to BNSF’s asset base, as the railroad wants, would increase coal hauling rates since they are tied to the carrier’s variable costs, Conrad and Hoeven said.

“Congress has given the STB discretion to protect shippers from unreasonable rates, and STB should ensure its regulations for cost are fair and conform to its regulatory purposes,” the senators wrote in a letter to the board, which oversees the freight rail industry.



Sen. John Hoeven

Captive shippers who lack access to competitive rail service hope the Conrad-Hoeven letter will add impetus to their concerns about the acquisition premium. The letter was released a few weeks after a March 22 STB hearing, during which shippers, railroads, economists and elected officials weighed in on the issue.

The board has not set a deadline for a decision.

Conrad and Hoeven said inclusion of the premium could undermine a landmark 2009 STB case involving Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, N.D., and Western Fuels Association.

The G&T and the fuel supply co-op won a judgment that capped rates for 16 years and received hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from excessive shipping rates.

“These capped rates would be affected by any inclusion of an acquisition premium. Because there is over $200 million in the form of future rate calculations, the pending decision would have a significant impact on the 2009 case, consumer electricity bills, and rail rates for North Dakota businesses and citizens,” Conrad and Hoeven said.

In an April 23 letter to Conrad and Hoeven, Matthew Rose, chairman, president and CEO of BNSF, responded that inclusion of the premium is in line with accepted accounting practices. He suggested the railroad would be open to phasing in the cost over three or four years

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

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May 7 (Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett, who built Berkshire Hathaway Inc. into a $200 billion company through stock picks and acquisitions, said his firm may top its largest deal, the 2010 purchase of railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

"Berkshire will continue to grow," Buffett, 81, said in an interview for Bloomberg Television's "In the Loop" program with Betty Liu after the firm's May 5 shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. "Someday, $34 billion will not be the limit."

Record earnings at Berkshire's largest units have helped build the company's cash holdings to $37.8 billion. Buffett told shareholders at the meeting that he recently passed on a deal valued at about $22 billion after failing to agree on price. The billionaire, who has kept the cash hoard above $20 billion to guarantee liquidity, said that such a deal would have meant divesting some securities he didn't want to sell.

Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charles Munger, 88, took questions for five hours at Omaha's CenturyLink Center on topics such as succession and U.S. politics, and companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. He sketched out some of the roles he envisioned for the next generation of Berkshire leaders, who will oversee a $120 billion portfolio of stocks and bonds and allocate capital among more than 70 operating units.

Buffett said last month that he was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer and that he would undergo radiation therapy starting in July. He said at the meeting that the diagnosis is a "minor event" and that he feels "terrific." Some investors said they hope Buffett remains Berkshire's chairman and chief executive officer for years and continues holding the annual meetings, which draw tens of thousands of people.


Munger's Resentment


"I resent all this attention and sympathy Warren is getting," Munger said in response to a question about Buffett's health. "I probably have more prostate cancer than he does."

Buffett's roles will be divided when he's no longer leading Berkshire. He has said that his son Howard, a company director, would guard the firm's culture as non-executive chairman, while the board has picked his successor as CEO along with two backups. The firm hasn't identified the candidates.

Oversight of the investment portfolio will fall to Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, former hedge-fund managers whom Buffett hired in the past two years. Berkshire hit a "home run" with both and may add another money manager to help, Buffett said. Weschler and Combs oversee $2.75 billion each.


Future Leaders


Risk management will be among the responsibilities of the next CEO, Buffett said. The company's future leaders are unlikely to have much of a derivatives book except for some positions used in operating subsidiaries, he said. Berkshire has more than $7 billion in liabilities on contracts it sold in 2006 and 2007 that are tied to global stock markets.

Overseeing what could happen to the company in worst-case scenarios is "a very important ability" that shouldn't be delegated, Buffett said. "We're not going to have an arts major in charge of Berkshire."

The next CEO also will be counted on to make deals. Finding acquisitions big enough to boost earnings power is one of the challenges Berkshire faces, Jay Gelb, an analyst at Barclays Plc, said in a note to clients last month. Gelb was among three analysts invited this year to ask questions of Buffett and Munger alongside shareholders and a panel of journalists.

The Burlington Northern deal was financed with cash and stock and has helped boost net income. The railroad contributed $701 million to first-quarter profit, up from $607 million a year earlier, as shipments of consumer goods and industrial products rose, Berkshire said in a May 4 regulatory filing.


'I Love Acquisitions'


"I wish I could make a big acquisition, because I love acquisitions when we've got the money," Buffett told Bloomberg Television. "If we can make a good deal tomorrow, whether it's small or big, we'll make it."

 

Buffett told Bloomberg's Liu that he would let women join the Augusta National Golf Club if he were in charge. The club, which holds golf's annual Masters Tournament, has been criticized for its male-only policy. The promotion of Virginia "Ginni" Rometty to CEO of International Business Machines Corp., one of the tournament's chief sponsors, drew attention to the issue. The Georgia club historically invites IBM's top executive to be a member, including the four previous CEOs.

"I'm not telling the group at Augusta what to do, but if I were running the club I'd have plenty of women," said Buffett, a member of Augusta. Berkshire is IBM's biggest shareholder.


Citizens United


Buffett also fielded questions at the meeting about his support for President Barack Obama and his push for higher taxes on the wealthy. He said he wouldn't donate to super political action committees, the interest groups made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling that removed limits on corporate and union election spending.

"I don't want to see democracy go in that direction," Buffett said. Supporters of both Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney have created super PACs to influence this year's presidential election.

Some shareholders questioned Buffett about Berkshire stock, which has underperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 Index in six of the last seven quarters. He said he may repurchase shares "on a big scale" if the price falls below 110 percent of book value, a measure of assets minus liabilities. At that point, Buffett said he would be certain that he was making money for shareholders who held onto their investment. Berkshire's Class A shares closed May 4 at $121,950 each, or about 1.14 times book.


Bribery Allegations


Berkshire's holding in Wal-Mart also drew a question. The New York Times reported last month that executives at the world's biggest retailer bribed officials to speed expansion in Mexico. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating, people familiar with the matter have said. Berkshire owns 39 million shares, or more than 1 percent, of the Bentonville, Arkansas- based company.

While Wal-Mart may have botched how it dealt with bribery allegations and will have to divert management time to the investigation, the probe probably won't have a long-term effect on the company's financial strength, Buffett said.

"I don't think the earning power of Wal-Mart five years from now will be materially affected by the outcome of this situation," he said. "It may result in a significant fine, but I don't think it changes the fundamental dynamic."

David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, declined to comment. The company said in an April 21 statement that it has met voluntarily with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to discuss the case. The retailer also is enhancing its audit procedures and internal controls.






Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/05/07/bloomberg_articlesM3MG6107SXKX01-M3MQ5.DTL&ao=2#ixzz1uCTePANx

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Former Burlington Northern SD40-2s being rebuilt in Chile

Published: May 7, 2012



Workers at Casagrande Motori repaint Ex-Burlington Northern SD40-2 No. 6379 to Fepasa No. 3301 in Santiago, Chile.

Photo by Alan Miller

SANTIAGO, Chile – Three former Burlington Northern SD40-2s are being rebuilt for service on Fepasa, the largest freight railroad company in Chile. The three units, ex-BN 6379, 6385, and 6922 (ex-BN 6900) will become Fepasa 3301, 3302, and 3303, respectively. Units 6379 and 6385 were built in 1974; No. 6922 was constructed in 1973.

Rebuilder Casagrande Motori is remanufacturing the units in Santiago, which includes re-gauging them with 5-foot 6-inch gauge trucks. The units will be used on a dedicated copper concentrate operation from the Santiago area to a smelter on the Pacific Coast at Ventanas, Chile.

A local artist has been commissioned to paint all three units. The first unit, Fepasa 3301, is now in the paint shop.

The copper concentrate trains are expected to begin operation around September 2012. If traffic warrants, Fepasa may acquire more SD40-2s for the trains. – Information from Alan Miller

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider National, Inc., on Wednesday said it has signed a new, multiyear agreement with BNSF, under which the Class I railroad will continue to serve as one of Schneider's primary rail providers.

The agreement reaffirms Schneider National's intermodal commitment to providing customers with cost-effective, streamlined services that provide flexibility to control and manage freight, Schneider National said.

"Schneider's asset-based intermodal service expertise, combined with BNSF's commitment to a technologically advanced and efficient rail system, provides customers a proven solution during a time of tight truckload capacity," said Bill Matheson, president of Intermodal Services for Schneider National. "Our relationship with BNSF allows us to provide the support our customers need to succeed, saving them time and money while enabling reliable service."

BNSF became Schneider's primary Western rail provider in 2008. During the past four years, the companies have enhanced their performance to deliver "truck-like" reliability and low-cost service. The agreement provides Schneider customers continued access to the largest intermodal network in the world, offering two service levels and daily service in all major lanes.

BNSF has continued to expand capacity on its network by improving rail infrastructure and adding service offerings to support intermodal growth. Among many items, BNSF's 2012 capital commitment of $3.9 billion includes the development of a new intermodal facility in the Kansas City area.

"More and more shippers are realizing the benefits of converting their over-the-road freight to intermodal," said Steve Branscum, BNSF Railway, group vice president Consumer Products Marketing. "As they do so, our two companies are poised to provide these shippers with exceptional intermodal service throughout the U.S. We look forward to working closely with Schneider to continue to bring next-generation intermodal solutions to the marketplace."

In addition to service coverage in the West with BNSF Railway, Schneider National moves loads in the East with CSX, as well as Canadian and Mexican border crossings with CN and Kansas City Southern railroads, Schneider National said.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

In the first quarter, BNSF Railway Co. generated total operating revenue of about $5 billion, up 10 percent compared with first-quarter 2011, according to a U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission-filed 10-Q form and a performance summary that are posted on the Class I’s web site.

In addition, net income climbed 15 percent to $789 million, operating income rose 15 percent to $1.3 billion, volume increased 3 percent to 2.3 million units and the operating ratio improved 1 point to 74.4.

On a year-over-year basis, consumer products revenue rose from $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion, coal revenue inched up from $1.21 billion to $1.24 billion (even though coal volume declined 4 percent in the quarter), industrial products revenue increased from $914 million to $1.1 billion and agricultural products revenue remained relatively flat at $953 million versus $949 million.

Consumer products traffic increased 6 percent primarily because of higher domestic intermodal volume driven by highway conversions to rail, and higher automotive volume driven by increased North American auto sales and rebuilding vehicle inventories, BNSF officials wrote in the 10-Q form. Industrial products traffic increased 11 percent primarily due to increased shipments of petroleum products and construction products, principally sand and steel, they wrote. But agricultural products traffic decreased 5 percent because of weaker wheat exports, which partially were offset by higher U.S. corn shipments.

Operating expenses in the first quarter totaled $3.7 billion, up 9 percent compared with first-quarter 2011. Fuel costs — which shot up from $939 million in the year-ago period to $1.1 billion — accounted for the majority of the year-over-year increase, representing 30 percent of total operating expenses, BNSF officials wrote.

In addition, increased volume and inflation contributed to a 4 percent rise in compensation and benefits expenses, and higher locomotive maintenance costs helped drive up purchased services expenses by 4 percent, they wrote.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board has issued the results of its investigation of a collision between a BNSF coal train and maintenance-of-way equipment that killed two employees last year. On April 17, 2011, at about 6:55 a.m., eastbound BNSF coal train C-BTMCNM0-26 collided with the rear end of a standing maintenance-of-way equipment train near Red Oak, Iowa. The collision resulted in the derailment of two locomotives and 12 cars. In the collision, the lead locomotive’s modular cab was detached, partially crushed, and involved in a subsequent diesel fuel fire. Both crewmembers on the coal train were killed. Damage was in excess of $8.7 million.

The board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the coal train’s crew to comply with the signal indications that required them to operate at restricted speed and stop short of the standing train. The crew did not do so because they had fallen asleep, owing to fatigue resulting from their irregular work schedules and their medical conditions, which put them at high risk for sleep disorders and fatigue.

The board said contributing to the accident was the absence of a positive train control system that could identify the rear of a train and stop a following train if a safe braking profile is exceeded. Contributing to the severity of the damage to the locomotive cab was the absence of crashworthiness standards for modular locomotive cabs. 

Among the board’s conclusions was that had the positive train control/Electronic Train Management System currently in development been installed on the Creston Subdivision where the accident occurred, it likely would not have prevented the accident.

The system currently in development does not identify the rear end of a standing train as a target and allows following movements at up to 23 mph.

Among the board recommendations to prevent accidents of this type were:

  • That the Federal Railroad Administration require railroads to medically screen employees in safety-sensitive positions for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
    That the FRA require the use of positive train control technologies that will detect the rear of trains and prevent rear-end collisions.
  • Revise federal regulations to ensure the protection of the occupants of isolated cabs in the event of a collision, and make the recommendation applicable to all locomotives, including the existing fleet and those newly constructed, rebuilt, refurbished, and overhauled, unless the cab will never be occupied.
  • Require all railroads to ensure that the lead locomotives on tracks not equipped with a positive train control system are equipped with an alerter.
  • BNSF should require all employees and managers who perform or supervise safety-critical tasks to complete fatigue training on an annual basis, and document when they have received this training.
  • Require the installation in locomotive cabs of crash and fire protected inward and outward facing audio and image recorders. The devices should have a minimum 12-hour continuous recording capability with recordings that are easily accessible for review, and with appropriate limitations on public release. The tapes would be used for the investigation of accidents, or for use by management in carrying out efficiency testing and system wide performance monitoring programs.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

BNSF to invest USD 202 million to maintain and expand rail capacity in Nebraska

11. May 2012


The US railway company BNSF plans to invest around USD 202 million on maintenance and rail capacity improvement and expansion projects in Nebraska this year. BNSF's 2012 capacity enhancement projects in that state include adding a second main line track in the Grand Island area, beginning work to replace BNSF's bridge over the Missouri River between Plattsmouth NE and Pacific Junction IA, expansion of BNSF's Lincoln locomotive shop, improvements to BNSF's Havelock car shop, and significant signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control (PTC). (ben)

http://www.bnsf.com

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Talking information technology (IT) is second nature to Jo-ann Olsovsky, and on an early mid-April morning, she's in her element. BNSF Railway Co.'s vice president of technology services and chief information officer has set up shop in the Heritage Conference Room in BNSF's technology services office building, which is less than half a mile from the Class I's headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I took the liberty of putting together a few slides," Olsovsky says.

Her PowerPoint, which features a BNSF technology overview, key technologies already adopted, a 2012 project list, and a focus on people and workforce issues, sums up BNSF's multi-layered, near-term IT strategy succinctly. It also serves as a case study of the evolution of a digital railway. From creating a "mobility vision" to nurturing a collaborative problem-solving approach to tapping into the consumerization of IT, Olsovsky and her team have a full plate this year. Just like they do every year. But with IT, timing's the thing. It's about staying a step ahead, technology and idea-generation wise, without always actually taking a step. For IT leaders, it's about being a visionary and a managed risk-taker, often at the same time.

For Olsovsky, it all adds up to leveraging technology to help make BNSF a better railroad.

"How can I improve the efficiency of the railroad? That's what Matt and Carl challenge me to do," Olsovsky says, referring to BNSF Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Matt Rose, and President and Chief Operating Officer Carl Ice. "What can I do to improve the business?"

Availability Is Key

It's an approach Olsovsky has taken since she joined the Class I in 2006 as assistant vice president of telecommunications. Prior to joining BNSF, she spent 10 years with GTE/Verizon Communications, and 13 years with AT&T. In 2008, Olsovsky was promoted to BNSF's top IT job. Since then, she's been responsible for delivering the railway's telecommunications services, data center infrastructure, system applications and all other IT services.

The technology services team supports more than 40,000 BNSF employees at more than 2,700 locations. The department comprises more than 1,000 employees, including 450 scheduled field employees. IBM Corp. provides data center infrastructure support. BNSF also enlists the services of InfoSys Technologies, an India-based consulting and software company.

BNSF's core IT infrastructure is massive. The railway hosts three data centers, four mainframes and 1,700 servers. The Class I has 6,000 miles of fiber and 14,000 miles of microwave. Eighty thousand communication radios provide 28,000 miles of radio coverage.

"I run a mini phone company," Olsovsky says. "We go to places phone companies don't go."

System availability, then, is paramount. As ever, the aim is "five nines," as in a system that is up and running 99.999 percent of the time, she says.

"First and foremost, we have to improve system availability," she says. "There's this joke: In IT, we can't make trains move faster, but we sure can slow them down."

Assorted network technology issues had a hand in said slowdowns in the early 2000s, Olsovsky says. But since 2006, the technology services department has posted a 72 percent reduction in "technology caused" train delays — from 13,417 minutes in 2006 to 3,805 minutes in 2011, she says.

In the meantime, technology continues to help departments railroad-wide improve business processes and drive efficiencies.

"In IT, our charge is to be forward thinkers — we have to be forward thinkers — and good stewards of the technology investments we deploy," Olsovsky says.

Being a good steward means getting out from behind the desk and into the real rail world, she believes.

"I've gone out in the field with track inspectors, I've sat in the [locomotive] cab, I've put on work boots. That's what makes the difference between an O.K. CIO and a great CIO," Olsovsky says. "You need to know how the railroad works, you need to see how users are using tools. I encourage my directors and managers to get out there, too."

It's part of what it means to stay the forward-thinking course.

"We need to help the business to be agile, so we have to find ways to understand what our cost drivers are," Olsovsky says. "We have to understand changing business needs, as well as all the changing IT needs and advances."

Mobility Matters

Given the pace at which IT has been advancing, getting a handle on that change has been no mean feat. From the host/mainframe era of the 1960s, to the client/server-driven 1980s and desktop and web realms in the 1990s, through the mobile and wireless world of the 2000s, new technology has come and gone at BNSF. It's also come and stayed, evolved and established paths to new technology directions.

Accordingly, Olsovsky's "Tech-nologies in Use at BNSF" PowerPoint slide runs the gamut — from geographic information systems (GIS) to biometric time clocks to remote video inspection to positive train control (PTC) to voice recognition to the still-evolving world of wireless.

"It's just a sampling," she says of her list of 28 technologies. "There's always more to come."

Particularly given the exponential growth in computing power during the past several decades. Olsovsky cites Moore's Law, which loosely states that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles every couple of years. For instance, an iPad 2 has as much computing power as a Cray 2 supercomputer, c. 1985.

"The way Moore's Law has evolved, we can now leverage it," she says.

One such leveraging exercise: Olsovsky and her team are in the process of creating a mobility vision.

"We need to be device agnostic," she says.

The IT team is rolling out the mobility strategy in phases. In March 2011, BNSF unveiled four mobile applications designed to enable customers to manage rail shipments on their smart phones. The applications — Unit Trace, Switch and Release, Coal Train Tracing and Display Lot Location — are available on BNSF's website (www.bnsf.com). The apps can be accessed via BlackBerry, iPhone, Android or Windows 7 phones.

"I don't want anybody to think that doing business with the railroad is difficult," Olsovsky says. "I want it to be so easy to do business with us that they won't ever leave."

Customers are using the mobile apps. From June 2011 through February 2012, "track your shipment" usage via the apps was up 50 percent, Olsovsky says. Meanwhile, a recently established in-house mobility team plans to push the envelope even further. An acronym gaining traction at BNSF and within IT departments everywhere is "BYOD," as in "Bring Your Own Device." Olsovsky credits the long-simmering consumerization of IT, which is now at a full boil.

"We're a BlackBerry shop, but people want to be able to use what they use," she says. "You can't stop it."

And as the BYOD grip tightens, the need for collaboration on the problem-solving front will be that much greater.

"Increasingly, it's about work-life integration," Olsovsky says. "And to me, you can't do anything personally or professionally without leveraging technology to some degree."

The IT team plans to do a whole lot of leveraging in the applications arena this year. In addition to pursuing device-agnostic solutions, Olsovsky's team will focus on assessing cost, risk and utilization. What tools can be consolidated? Which need to be retired? When is the right time to upgrade? What should be developed in-house? Should it be developed in-house?

"One of my mantras is ‘Buy vs. Build,'" she says. "We really have to analyze it. You don't have to build everything yourself."

The Social Business Network

Other priorities include analytics development and system modernization. Regarding the latter: BNSF's transportation system — Transportation Support System — was developed in the late 1980s and "lives" on a mainframe, Olsovsky says. The next step? Making the system "GPS driven," she says. Also on the to-modernize list: revenue accounting and customer relationship management systems.

Social media applications, too, are on the project docket. The IT team is partnering with the corporate communications and human resources departments to determine how BNSF can conduct more "social business," as Olsovsky puts it. One initiative includes using salesforce.com's Chatter, a private social network. In another project, shippers can chat (via social network) with BNSF customer service reps rather than communicating via phone.

With respect to IT infrastructure, system availability and network security work remain points of emphasis. Keeping tabs on and, where necessary, investing in next-generation networks and user devices also is top of mind. Leveraging GIS and "hosted alternatives" (e.g., salesforce.com's Chatter) will be part of the mix, Olsovsky says.

"Again, we don't need to create everything from scratch," she says. "Total cost of ownership is something I want my people to think about."

In the meantime, work continues on systems, applications and products in data processing (SAP) related software projects, including the implementation of an enterprise asset management system. The SAP software supports finance, human resources and payroll applications. Two years ago, BNSF began implementing life-cycle management and learning management systems. Other infrastructure projects include next-generation voice and video, PTC, virtualization and tiered storage. Workforce systems, too, are on IT's radar.

"The railroad has to reduce the time it takes to hire people," Olsovsky says, noting looming railroad retirements and longer-term growth expectations.

A Story To Tell

Workforce issues also loom large in the IT department. Year in and year out, Olsovsky's top three challenges are safety ("We have people climbing 400-foot towers that we have to keep safe"), network security and system availability. But now, workforce development is right up there with the Big Three.

"We can't do all that we need to do if we don't have the talent," she says. "And I do have an aging workforce."

About 25 percent of her department's leaders are age 55 or older. In five years, nearly 40 percent of them will be 55-plus. So, Olsovsky is exploring organizational restructuring opportunities, as well as role divisions. In the meantime, she knows she's got recruiting, mentoring and knowledge sharing (and transferring) work to do. Increasingly, that work is putting her in front of various publics.

"I want to tell the story," Olsovsky says, citing both the BNSF and rail-as a-growth-industry stories. "We've got a great one here."

It helps that BNSF has talent — the kind that gets noticed, Olsovsky says. IT industry publications have bestowed numerous awards upon BNSF's IT team in recent years. Among them: Computerworld awarded BNSF a Best Practices in Business Intelligence award for "Best Data Visualization, Prediction and Presentation" in 2006. The publication also has recognized the Class I as one of the 100 Best Places to Work in IT three times during the past six years, and selected Olsovsky among its "Premier 100 IT Leaders" for 2010. She also was named one of Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology Magazine's Top 200 Most Influential Hispanics in Technology in 2011.

In the meantime, Olsovsky will continue working on a Railroading 2020 plan designed to keep the IT department, and BNSF, on track for the next decade. Not that she ever doubted the Class I would continue moving in the right direction.

"I have a vast appreciation for the people of BNSF," Olsovsky says. "It's the most unselfish, service-oriented organization I could ever hope to be around."

And in an IT-driven world, where collaboration and ease of doing business rule, that unselfishness will be invaluable.

"I'm really looking forward to helping shape what comes next," Olsovsky says.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

NORFOLK, Va., May 11, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Norfolk Southern NSC +0.40% is making it easier for communities, businesses, and informed observers such as rail fans to report issues relating to public safety and security to the railroad's police force. The NS announcement is a significant expansion of the community-based rail security initiative started by BNSF Railway.

Everyone with a stake in rail operations is invited to join Norfolk Southern's new "Protect the Line" reporting program, an online resource that directly connects you with NS Police. By becoming a Protect the Line member at the new http://www.protecttheline.com website, observers can report immediately to NS Police any suspicious activity relating to equipment maintenance, track obstructions, trespassing, vandalism, suspicious items and vehicles, and terrorism.

NS' Protect the Line and BNSF's Citizens for Rail Security are part of an industry-wide initiative that works to include everyone with an interest in railroads.

"Community awareness and participation are critical to keeping the railroad line safe and secure," said David Julian, NS vice president safety and environmental. "Through Protect the Line and Citizens for Rail Security, the public can work directly with us to prevent and mitigate situations that jeopardize the railroad line and those whom we serve."

Mark Sinquefield, NS director of police, said, "Protect the Line members will be doing their part to safeguard America's critical commerce network by serving as responsible additional eyes and ears for railroads and our employees."

"More than 10,000 citizens have joined the Citizens for Rail Security effort and are making the rail network a safer place by reporting potential trespassers, stolen equipment, and suspicious behavior near the tracks," said Duwayne Pennington, BNSF's assistance vice president of Resource Protection.

Interested people can access the Protect the Line website a number of different ways: directly at http://www.protecttheline.com , through the Norfolk Southern website at http://www.nscorp.com , and through BNSF's Citizens for Rail Security website at http://www.citizensforrailsecurity.com . Visitors are encouraged to register by clicking Protect the Line and providing contact information. The Protect the Line website explains more about the program, including a link to BNSF's site.

Citizen reports can be made to the NS Police at 800-453-2530 and nspolice@nscorp.com and to BNSF Police at 800-832-5452 and http://www.citizensforrailsecurity.com , either directly or through the website. Stay tuned. NS is developing an update to its smartphone app, NS Corp, that will include access to Protect the Line, with enhanced communications capabilities.

The NS and BNSF police forces are charged with safeguarding people and freight shipments over the systems. They work closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to protect railroads and communities.

Norfolk Southern Corporation NSC +0.40% is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.

BNSF Railway is one of North America's leading freight transportation companies operating on 32,000 route miles of track in 28 states and two Canadian provinces. BNSF is one of the top transporters of grain, consumer goods, industrial goods and low-sulfur coal that help feed, clothe, supply, and power American homes and businesses every day. BNSF and its employees have developed one of the most technologically advanced, and efficient railroads in the industry. And we are working continuously to improve the value of the safety, service, energy, and environmental benefits we provide to our customers and the communities we serve. You can learn more about BNSF at http://www.BNSF.com .

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

CNN) -- For well over a century the world has come to call on Garden City, Kansas, every day of the year.

"I know the town would miss it," said Garden City's mayor, David Crase. "I hope it doesn't come to that."

He was talking about the Southwest Chief, the big Amtrak passenger train that runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Garden City, with a population of around 28,000, has had its own daily passenger railroad service since the town was founded in rural southwest Kansas in the late 1800s. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe sent its glamorous trains through Kansas on their way east and west. Garden City built its train station right downtown.

To have the station there made the town part of the grand and glorious thread that, railroad-stop-by-railroad-stop, connected the still-young nation, the thread that made the country seem, and feel, cohesive and whole.

When Amtrak took over the passenger railroads in the early 1970s, many cities around the country -- some much larger than Garden City -- lost train service, and the need for their stations. But Garden City never did.

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Twice each day, Sundays and holidays included, the Southwest Chief pulls to a full stop downtown to let passengers get off and let passengers get on. Residents who live nearby can literally stroll over to the train station, hop on the Southwest Chief, and step off at the end of the line in Los Angeles.

But even for residents who never use the Southwest Chief, its presence is a symbol. The whistle sounds, as it has since the 1800s, and it signals that men and women from large cities and small will be stopping, however briefly, in their town, at their station.

"You take pride in that sort of thing," said John Doll, a member of the city commission. "Just knowing it's there. When you see that train roll in, it's like listening to an old song that you love.

"When I was a boy, my father, my two brothers and I would ride the train to Kansas City every summer to see a ballgame. They were the Kansas City Athletics then; they weren't yet the Royals. We'd stay at the Muehlebach Hotel. Every time I see or hear that train, that's what I think about: my dad and my brothers and riding through Kansas on our way to see big-league baseball."

Nothing is forever, though, and the possibility that the Southwest Chief may, within a few years, no longer come through Garden City is one of those stories built on dry, arcane economic facts.

The great majority of tracks that Amtrak rolls over are not owned by Amtrak, but are used through financial arrangements with the freight railroads. The tracks that run through Garden City's portion of Kansas and parts of Colorado and New Mexico are owned by BNSF Railway. All across the United States, between the renowned metropolises, are smaller towns that generations ago were selected to have their own stations -- stopping-off points-- and thus were accorded a special kind of enduring identity.

This spring, the Garden City Telegram reported, Amtrak and BNSF held a meeting in Garden City with representatives of the communities the Southwest Chief serves in those three states -- towns including Dodge City, Kansas; La Junta, Colorado; Raton, New Mexico. The Telegram reported that, because of the cost of maintaining the old tracks, the Southwest Chief may, within the next several years, be switched to an entirely different BNSF route, farther south.

The sums involved are not paltry. ccording to the Telegram, if the Southwest Chief is to stay on its traditional route with its traditional stations, $10 million per year for track-maintenance costs and a total of $100 million for long-term improvements must be found. If not, the alternate, passenger-train-ready BNSF tracks many miles to the south beckon.

It might not make much difference to the long-haul passengers who are riding between Chicago and California and don't much care where the train stops along the way. And it certainly won't make any difference to all the travelers who fly in jet airplanes across the country and seldom look down.

But there is something about a small town that has never gone a single day, in almost 150 years, without a passenger train pulling in and pausing to see if anyone would like to step out onto the streets of Garden City, or if anyone from Garden City would like to climb aboard and join the other cross-continental travelers...

"You get on the Southwest Chief downtown," John Doll said, "and within five minutes Garden City is all behind you. You're gone, just that quickly."

When the interstate highway system was built, it managed to leave Garden City out, he said; it is an 80-mile drive on two-lane state roads to the nearest entrance to I-70.

"It would be a setback if we were to lose the passenger train," said Matt Allen, the city manager. "We like to think we are the center of activities in western Kansas, and having the daily train service is an important part of that."

And, of course, there is the romance of the rails, a romance that has somehow been able to survive all of Amtrak's struggles -- even in an era that proclaims a digital, virtual world can transport a person anywhere without that person ever leaving home. When you're boarding a long-distance train, you are not boarding a number. You are boarding a name that sounds like an orchestral overture: the City of New Orleans; the Empire Builder; the Lake Shore Limited.

Or the Southwest Chief, bound for Garden City and points beyond.

After the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in a farmhouse in nearby Holcomb, author Truman Capote would arrive by train at the Garden City station to do the reporting that would result in the book "In Cold Blood."

The young county prosecutor in the case, Duane West, who would help to send killers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith to execution by hanging, is 80 now, and still lives in Garden City. He said that he and his wife, Orvileta, have gone down to meet the Southwest Chief twice in the past few weeks.

"We had friends visit from New Zealand," he said. "We went to the station to greet them, and we went to the station to see them off."

Efforts are under way to find financing to maintain the old tracks so the Southwest Chief will keep arriving in Garden City every day, as it always has.

And, with the clock ticking, if its time in town should end? If, before the end of this decade, the train is moved to a distant set of tracks?

The world will continue to spin. The Telegram reported that in 2011, the station in downtown Garden City served 7,511 passengers. A nice number, but not one that is likely to halt cold-eyed economic decisions.

Yet the importance of something like this to a place cannot be brushed aside.

Mayor Crase, who also runs the local Little Caesars pizza franchise, said that from his house he can hear the Southwest Chief pulling into town on its journey across America early each morning and late each night.

"I kind of enjoy listening to it," he said. "You'll hear that whistle, and on some days, when I have the windows open and the wind is right, I can hear the sound of the train idling at the station before it pulls out.

"It's part of our life. And once it's gone, it's gone."

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

BELLINGHAM - The City Council has scheduled a Monday, May 14, discussion of a new report that warns of likely waterfront disruptions if a massive new rail siding is constructed to accommodate coal trains headed for a proposed export pier at Cherry Point.

At 1:55 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, the council's transportation committee expects to take a closer look at a recent consultant's report commissioned by Communitywise Bellingham. That report indicates that the single track on the BNSF Railway Co. mainline through the city is already close to its practical capacity.

SSA Marine, the Seattle-based shipping giant proposing the Gateway Pacific Terminal at a site south of the Cherry Point refinery, has estimated that the facility could draw as many as nine additional northbound trains per day, mostly loaded with coal. The nine empty trains also would have to pass through the city on the return trip to Rocky Mountain coal mines.

The report from Transit Safety Management noted that earlier state studies have identified a new Bellingham rail siding as the best way to enable more trains to pass through the local bottleneck. But the siding envisioned in those studies would stretch from the Amtrak station in Fairhaven almost to Central Avenue just south of Old Town, forcing closure of the rail crossings that provide car, bike and pedestrian access to Boulevard Park, as well as the Wharf Street crossing near the Port of Bellingham's shipping terminal.

BNSF spokeswoman Suann Lundsberg questioned the consultant's findings, saying she did not think anyone from Transit Safety Management consulted railroad officials before the report was issued. She also noted that the studies cited in the report were focused on increased Amtrak passenger service. Lundsberg contended that the findings in those reports did not necessarily apply to freight operations.

"These consultants do not have access to BNSF data and have no knowledge of what is needed for freight rail capacity in the region without talking to key freight rail providers, such as BNSF," Lundsberg said in an email.

In a later telephone interview, she noted that the Bellingham siding project had been on the drawing board even before SSA Marine came forward with its shipping terminal plan. But she said it would not necessarily be correct to conclude that Gateway Pacific could not operate without the siding through Bellingham.

BNSF plans to manage the increased freight traffic to and from Gateway Pacific by building a double track along the railroad spur that leads from Custer to the existing Cherry Point industries, Lundsberg said.

Another railroad official, corporate relations vice president John Ambler, explained that accommodating passenger trains requires more precise scheduling.

"Passenger trains get priority over freight trains and run on a much stricter schedule," Ambler said in an email. "Additional passenger train traffic would likely require a passing track (siding). And, additional passenger traffic is a distinct possibility on this line in future years. Consequently, we have been talking to the city about the possible need for a siding, because when they are planning overpasses (such as in the case of the waterfront development project), they need to leave room for the possibility of a siding."

But a siding is not needed for freight alone, Ambler said.

"Providing freight service to Gateway Pacific Terminal alone does not necessitate building a siding along the Bellingham waterfront," Ambler wrote. "However, BNSF does continually assess its capacity needs on the Bellingham Subdivision, to be prepared in advance of any future traffic growth."

Communitywise Bellingham members are not convinced. In a letter to the Whatcom County Planning Department, the group's executive director, Shannon Wright, argued that the impacts of the Bellingham siding should be lumped into the overall study of Gateway Pacific's impacts. Wright noted that the Custer rail improvements are already slated for scrutiny of that process. If the Bellingham siding also will be a necessary part of the coal terminal project, then that siding needs to get intense public scrutiny as well.

A December 2011 rail capacity study, prepared for a group of Northwest ports, appears to support the contention that added rail traffic through Whatcom County would require new sidings.

The study estimates the current capacity of the rail line through Bellingham and Whatcom County at about 24 trains per day, with a current average of about 17 trains using it today.

The first phase of Gateway Pacific, which SSA Marine has said it hopes to have up and running by 2016, would add 10 trains per day to the local rail line, including both incoming and outgoing. That would put the line over the capacity estimated in the port study even if no other rail cargoes or passenger trains are added in the meantime.

Under the consultants' high-growth scenario for maritime shipping and related rail shipment, the local rail line could get between 34 and 37 trains per day by 2020. Although the Gateway Pacific project is not mentioned in the study, that project's 18 trains at full capacity, added to the current traffic of 17 trains per day, would get local train traffic into the study's estimated range.

SSA has estimated it could achieve full capacity by 2026.

But the consultants also note that the local rail line can't handle all those additional trains without "addition of new sidings and the extension of existing sidings," although the location of those improvements is not spelled out.

Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association, said the added rail capacity would be good for the Northwest economy. While he and the ports association are not taking a position on the coal terminals, the development of those terminals could provide BNSF with the financial incentive to add the capacity required, Johnson said.

"That kind of capacity constraint is what causes the railroad to invest in projects that make the capacity go up," Johnson said.

Johnson recently sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking the corps to be wary of imposing an overly broad environmental and economic study of coal terminal impacts. State agencies, Indian tribes and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have recently joined environmental groups in calling for just that kind of broad review of the impacts of coal terminals proposed around the region - impacts that could include everything from rail congestion and health problems to global pollution from coal burning in China.

"We're very nervous that the opponents of the coal terminals are going to wind up damaging freight rail interests generally," Johnson said, adding that added rail capacity will have many indirect benefits.

"The increased capacity also allows passenger trains to go faster," Johnson said. "It's always kind of a tradeoff."

Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove says he fears his city is on the short end of that tradeoff.

In a recent telephone press conference organized by coal terminal opponents, Mayor Trulove said 30 to 40 trains per day are already traveling through his city of about 11,000 people, passing over five at-grade street crossings.

"The tooting echoes through the community," Trulove said. "You probably don't want to open your windows at night or you won't be able to hear your TV."

If all the coal terminal projects now on the drawing board are built, another 60 trains per day could pass through Cheney, Trulove said.

The city had been working on a plan to install safety improvements along the BNSF line that would keep people and cars off the tracks and enable trains to do less tooting through town. But now BNSF wants to double up its rail line through Cheney, and that makes the plan obsolete, Trulove said.

"We'll never have enough money in a small town like this to build an overpass or an underpass," Trulove said.

Nor can it afford the cost of satellite fire stations to serve areas of town that will be isolated from emergency services if rail traffic gets much greater than it already is, Trulove added.

"We're bearing unacceptable external costs," Trulove said. "If this coal exporting is in the national interest, where's our compensation?"

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

NS invites public to help protect the rail line; joins BNSF in expanding community rail security ini


Monday, May 14, 2012


Norfolk Southern is making it easier for communities, businesses and informed observers to report issues relating to public safety and security to the railroad's police force. The NS announcement is a significant expansion of the community-based rail security initiative started by BNSF.

Everyone with a stake in rail operations is invited to join Norfolk Southern's new "Protect the Line" reporting program, an online resource that directly connects the public with NS Police. By becoming a Protect the Line member at the new http://www.protecttheline.com website, observers can report immediately to NS Police any suspicious activity relating to equipment maintenance, track obstructions, trespassing, vandalism, suspicious items and vehicles and terrorism.

NS' Protect the Line and BNSF's Citizens for Rail Security are part of an industry-wide initiative that works to include everyone with an interest in railroads.

"Community awareness and participation are critical to keeping the railroad line safe and secure," said David Julian, NS vice president safety and environmental. "Through Protect the Line and Citizens for Rail Security, the public can work directly with us to prevent and mitigate situations that jeopardize the railroad line and those whom we serve."

"More than 10,000 citizens have joined the Citizens for Rail Security effort and are making the rail network a safer place by reporting potential trespassers, stolen equipment and suspicious behavior near the tracks," said Duwayne Pennington, BNSF's assistance vice president of Resource Protection.

Interested people can access the Protect the Line website a number of different ways: directly at http://www.protecttheline.com, through the Norfolk Southern website at http://www.nscorp.com and through BNSF's Citizens for Rail Security website at http://www.citizensforrailsecurity.com. NS is developing an update to its smartphone app, NS Corp, that will include access to Protect the Line, with enhanced communications capabilities.

 

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

NS invites public to help protect the rail line; joins BNSF in expanding community rail security ini


Monday, May 14, 2012


Norfolk Southern is making it easier for communities, businesses and informed observers to report issues relating to public safety and security to the railroad's police force. The NS announcement is a significant expansion of the community-based rail security initiative started by BNSF.

Everyone with a stake in rail operations is invited to join Norfolk Southern's new "Protect the Line" reporting program, an online resource that directly connects the public with NS Police. By becoming a Protect the Line member at the new http://www.protecttheline.com website, observers can report immediately to NS Police any suspicious activity relating to equipment maintenance, track obstructions, trespassing, vandalism, suspicious items and vehicles and terrorism.

NS' Protect the Line and BNSF's Citizens for Rail Security are part of an industry-wide initiative that works to include everyone with an interest in railroads.

"Community awareness and participation are critical to keeping the railroad line safe and secure," said David Julian, NS vice president safety and environmental. "Through Protect the Line and Citizens for Rail Security, the public can work directly with us to prevent and mitigate situations that jeopardize the railroad line and those whom we serve."

"More than 10,000 citizens have joined the Citizens for Rail Security effort and are making the rail network a safer place by reporting potential trespassers, stolen equipment and suspicious behavior near the tracks," said Duwayne Pennington, BNSF's assistance vice president of Resource Protection.

Interested people can access the Protect the Line website a number of different ways: directly at http://www.protecttheline.com, through the Norfolk Southern website at http://www.nscorp.com and through BNSF's Citizens for Rail Security website at http://www.citizensforrailsecurity.com. NS is developing an update to its smartphone app, NS Corp, that will include access to Protect the Line, with enhanced communications capabilities.

 

 

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