Monthly Archives

June 2010


April was the Cruelest Month for the Fossil Fuel Industry

Editorial by Noel T. Braymer

First there was the explosion on April 5th in Montcoal, West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine which killed 29 miners. The cause of the deadly explosion was a build up of coal dust and methane gas which is very explosive if there is an ignition source. It was latter reported that the mine owned by the Massey Coal Company had a long history of ventilation problems and other safety issues.Not only this mine but several mines owned by Massey had been repeatedly fined by Federal safety inspectors which the company ignored and refused to pay.
Then on April 20th the Deepwater Horizon exploratory oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico when a large bubble of methane came out of the oil well and was ignited. Of the 126 workers on the oil rig, 11 are missing and presumed dead. It wasn’t until April 29th that BP, owner of the oil well admitted that the resulting oil leak was much greater than originally announced. There is no agreement on how much oil was leaking, but one independent estimate put it as equaling the Exxon Valdez spill every 4 days! This latest accident came after years of claims by the oil industry that off-shore oil drilling was safe and fail-safe systems would prevent major oil leaks. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon all three cut-off valves that were suppose to seal off the oil well in an emergency failed.
We will not run out of fossil fuels anytime soon. But the cost of our dependence on fossil fuel will increase both in out of pocket costs, human lives and damage to our environment. The best oil fields have been found and are rapidly depleting. To continue using vast amounts of oil will require more deep sea drilling, drilling in remote areas of the artic, use of thicker heavy oils and oil from sources such as tar sands and coal. Use of all of these sources will increase the cost of oil production and have major environmental hazards. Coal is cheap as long as it is dirty. It can be made cleaner but most users don’t want to pay extra to burn cleaner coal.  Coal leaves behind toxic ash and pollution in coal flume gas includes things like mercury which is a neurotoxin. There is methane or Natural Gas which is fairly clean. The United States has a great deal of methane, but much of it is locked up in rocks underground. To get to it requires a great deal of water to break up the rocks to get to the methane. Where this has been done owners of local wells have found the ground water greatly polluted and the water became flammable because it was contaminated with methane. There is a great deal of methane locked up in ice deep in the oceans called methane hydrates. It is possible that the explosion that blew up the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig came from methane hydrate disturbed by the oil well. Release of large amount of unburned methane is a serious form of pollution which could happen if there is large scale exploitation of methane hydrates.
The cost of fossil fuels can only continue to go up. The cost of renewable energy will continue to go down. Already wind energy is competitive and solar is very close in price and will soon be competitive with most fossil fuels for electricity. New energy sources however will never be as cheap as fossil fuels were in the 20th Century. As important as renewable energy will be, greater energy efficiency and conservation is important for future economic growth. Can conservation work? It already is in California. California is the most populous State at 37 million residents. Yet we use less energy than the second most populous State Texas, with 25 million residents. When looked at a per capita basis only New York and Rhode Island use slightly less energy than California of the States. Since 1975 the per capita use for electricity in California has changed little while it has grown 50% in the rest of the country. The largest use of energy in California is for transportation and that generally means oil.
The United States has a major impact on the price and demand of oil since we consume 25% of the world’s production. Along with more efficient lightings, white reflective roofs, better insulation and new sources of energy we in California and the Nation will need to go further on less energy. All the improvements needed for greater energy efficiency require long term investment. This will require spending money to save energy and money in the future. This will be quite a change from the high risk, high profit in a short term thinking driven mostly by Wall Street. Building an expanded, rationally connected rail passenger system tied with future land development is critical to an economical, energy efficient California. Europe has a standard of living as high and in some cases higher than in the United States. Yet Europe uses one seventh per capita the amount of oil as the United States. With improved technology and more energy choices we can match or do better than Europe and have a higher standard of living than we do now.

TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

June 7, 2010 Meeting

Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director

The commuter rail extension (Gilroy to Salinas) is now in the right of way acquisition phase.  The committee has issued a request for proposals in 3 categories: acquisition agent, legal services, and on-call appraisal. For the on-call group, the committee received 8 proposals. They recommend placing 7 on the list, for future use, but not signing any contracts. For legal services, there were 5 proposals. The committee recommends Meyers Nave. The acquisition agent proposals were many. The committee chose Overland Pacific, Associated Right of Way Services, and Paragon Partners as the top 3. The committee interviewed those agencies, and Overland Pacific was chosen.   The committee passed a resolution to support the above choices, and the final contracts will go to the TAMC Board of Directors later this month.

TAMC needs to buy 24 parcels of land. Hazardous materials work will be necessary for phase 2 of the acquisition. The pollutants will need to be identified and mitigated. Parsons will handle some of that work.

Updated Project Budget

The capital cost is about $110 million. TAMC is still seeking $75 million from a federal Small Starts Grant. TAMC may get $500,000 from Santa Cruz County, which has discussed helping to pay for the Pajaro station.  The estimated total operating costs are $4.49 million per year. The expected farebox revenues are $3.31 million per year, leaving the net operating costs as $1.18 million.

The federal funding for the Commuter Rail and the Monterey Branch Line projects will probably happen in different years, so the two projects will not necessarily be “competing” with each other. However, there could be political pressure not to award two grants to the same area, even in different years.

TAMC has sent the administrative draft environmental assessment (for Commuter Rail) to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). TAMC has received comments back from the FTA.

The chairman of the California Transportation Commission has shown concern about financing for existing Caltrain services. This is important, because the extension will be operated by either Caltrain or the Capitol Corridor.

Monterey Branch Line

The public outreach for the Monterey Branch Line is continuing. Representatives from TAMC have been attending meetings and showing the video simulation.

At the presentation to the Monterey City Council, the most common concerns were noise and the impact to Window on the Bay Park.

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Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board Meeting Report

June 16, 2010 Meeting in Oakland

Reported by Michael Barnbaum, Associate Director

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors Meeting was held at the BART Boardroom in Oakland.  There were as many as ten out of the sixteen total directors present for this particular meeting.

The Meeting opened with remarks from Chair Jim Holmes of Placer County.  Chair Holmes highlighted the Capitol Corridor Business Plan for Fiscal Years 2010-2011 and 2011-1012.  In his highlights, he mentioned that the Business Plan, which the Board adopted at its February Meeting, was submitted to the California State Secretary of Business Housing and Transportation in March, and accepted by the BT&H Secretary since it met the State’s Criteria and was received in the BT&H Secretary’s Office by the April First Deadline.

Chair Holmes also highlighted the FoodDrive event that kicked off in Sacramento on June First.  The early morning event featured many “CC Riders” with Chair Holmes and Board Member Roger Dickinson in attendance.  Later in the meeting the food drive was brought up by Managing Director David Kutrosky where a rider appreciation event that was going to be held at the Emeryville station the day after the meeting of the CCJPA.

After the minutes were approved, the CCJPB had taken up the consent calendar, and this is where the meeting became interesting.  One item, regarding a potential November Ballot Measure to protect transportation funding from being raided ever again, was pulled by Sacramento’s Roger Dickinson.  Roger expressed concern in that this possible ballot measure was problematic to the County Supervisors Association, particularly as it pertained to the area of Health and Human Services.  It was expressed that Health and Human Services could be subject to raids at the possibility of transportation not ever again being subject to raids.  The decision, voted upon sepate of all of the other Consent Matters went down as eight yes, one no, and one abstension.  Based on that vote count, BART’s District Secretary, who is also the Board Secretary to the CCJPB mentioned that the item failed to get endorsed, since it did not receive a nine out of sixteen vote majority.

The Board did approve the Sacramento-Roseville 3rd Track Project: Design Plans and Environmental Documents specifically for funding to go through to do an environmental analysis for the construction of a third mainline track between Sacramento and Roseville.  The project, if constructed, would have in place a third mainline track to achieve the goal of more Capitol Corridor Service to Roseville, and possibly one more additional frequency to/from Auburn.  We’ll check with staff in September on the Auburn matter and get back to all of you.  On the item that was before the Board, this writer got up to speak and specifically asked the Managing Director what the estimated time frame would be once the environmental analysis is done and construction begins to get additional frequencies to/from Roseville.  The Managing Director could not give an exact time-frame, but he did say that, “If I had to guess, it would be about three to five years.”  We can be optimistic about this time-frame, but we ca not hold our hopes up too high until the announcement comes on specific dates of schedule changes to benefit Roseville in this.

Once this item had finished, the CCJPB, through the direction of Chair Jim Holmes, took up reconsideration of the potential Ballot Measure for November that is currently titled the “Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act of 2010.”  Chair Holmes, while personally feeling that the Ballot Measure is something that concerns him, changed his vote for what is best business of the CCJPA’s Business Agenda, and by doing so, got the Board to get to a nine vote majority to endorse the ballot measure.  Of the ten directors present, only Sacramento’s Roger Dickinson cast an abstain vote on this measure, getting the final vote count to 9-0-1.

The board took action on a variety of Security Projects, including a security camera project at the San Francisco Ferry Building, Lighting for the OverFlow Parking Lots in Martinez, and by recommendation of the Oakland Police Department, Fencing for the Jack London Square station.

After the action items, a big discussion took place in regards to extending Capitol Corridor Service to/from Salinas.  The Meeting was attended by Christina Watson and Debra Hale, who work for the Transportation Agency for Monterey County.  The opportunity to extend Capitol Corridor service is being made in huge part because of the availability of “slots” that would permit passenger trains to operate at certain times in an operating schedule.  The ability to make this service real would require much getting together with other agencies and other companies.  Based on the discussion that took place, CCJPA Staff would have to work cooperatively with Monterey Salinas Transit, California Transportation Commission, TAMC, Union Pacific RailRoad, the Pinnensula Corridor Joint Powers Board, as well as Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.  If the service was done by Capitol Corridor rather than by CalTrain, it would also need to include CalTrans funding and changes in legislation at the state level that would allow for additional counties to have seats on the CCJPA Board of Directors.  Board Member Joel Keller of BART and CCJPA stated that he would love to see this happen and he would travel to Sacramento and work with legislators to see that this occurs.  Future agenda items regarding this matter will appear at CCJPA Meetings to come.  Stay tuned for more on this expansion matter.

In the Managing Directors Report, the Emeryville Station Project Completion was highlighted.  As the report states, “This project permits parallel moves into/out of the north end of the station, greatly reduces congestion at this current ‘choke point’ and improve freight rail access to/from the Port of Oakland.”

Ridership, particularly on Friday’s should be slowly recovering.  The State of California had its so-called 46th and final “Furlough Friday” for State Workers that began in December 2008.  The Furlough Friday’s have hurt Capitol Corridor Ridership since they began in December of 2008.  This being said, the Managing Director’s Report reflected positives for the Capitol Corridor in May of 2010.

May 2010 Ridership, the report states, was 1.4% above May 2009 as was revenue, a 2.9% increase from May of 2009.  The 95.9% On-Time Performance for the Capitol Corridor in May of 2010 was a record for the fiscal year, making the Capitol Corridor, “once again the most reliable train service in the Amtrak system for May 2010 as well as fiscal year-to-date.”

In the Marketing area, the CCJPA Cross-Promotional Contract with Cal Football ends after the conclusion of this football season.  One negotiating point between the CCJPA Marketing Team and Cal Football is the rennovation of Memorial Stadium in Berkeley which will in the 2011 Football Season, force Cal to play its “home” football games at AT&T Park in San Francisco.  Those dates are now being negotiated between Cal Football and San Francisco Giants Baseball so as to not have Saturday conflicts.  Stay tuned, more to come on this developing marketing contract renewal.  It was mentioned by this writer that prior to the next CCJPA Meeting Cal will host UC Davis at Memorial Stadium on September Fourth, while Stanford will host Sacramento State on September Fourth.

The next Board Meeting of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority will take place at 10:00 A.M. on Wednesday, September 15 in the City Council Chambers in Suisun City.


How fast can Trains run between Los Angeles and San Diego?

Comments by Noel T. Braymer

Governor Schwarzenegger recently proposed service between Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego in 2 hours and 10 minutes. This will be a “demonstration project” to give Californians a taste of Higher Speed Rail. So far there haven’t been many more facts about this project beyond a deadline of November, 2 months before the end of the Governor’s term and that European equipment would be used that will require FRA waivers to be used here.
The worse case scenario is that an express train will be run with only one stop in Anaheim. This would drop 6 intermediate stops which could save 30 minutes on the running time between Los Angeles and San Diego. The problem with this is express trains don’t carry many passengers. You have to stop at stations to pick up passengers. Also if this is just one train a day, the train may not be running at the time  passengers may want to leave or get to were they are going. Saving 30 minutes mean nothing if you have to wait two hours for your train. Express trains usually work when they are paired with local trains to feed intermediate traffic to them and the trains have good transfer traffic at terminals.
Now it is possible that this demonstration train could make all intermediate stops and still run in 2 hours and 10 minutes. Currently Surfliner trains wait 4 minutes at each station. This could be cut to 2 minutes or less which saves 15 minutes. There is at least 10 minutes of padding in the Surfliner schedule. Cut 5 minutes out of the padding and have cut the running time to 2 hours 20 minutes. It seems the equipment being proposed for this service is surplus Deutsche Bahn DMU self propelled tilt train rail cars in 4 car trainsets. This equipment has tilt train capability allowing faster speeds around curves. With better acceleration, braking and some higher speeds it may be possible to cut out that last 10 minutes to run trains in 2 hours and 10 minutes. However considering the history of local rail service over the last 30 years on this corridor, such a bold move seems unlikely.
Ten years ago when the Surfliner equipment was just being delivered, it was expected that by 2005 the running times between Los Angeles and San Diego would be 2 hours and 6 minutes! The goal for the then recently renamed Surfliner service was that in the foreseeable future the Surfliners would run between Los Angeles and San Diego in under 2 hours.  Yet with some effort we could see running times now cut on the Surfliners to 2 hours and 20 minutes by stopping at stations for 2 minutes instead of 4 and cutting out some of the padding in the current schedule. With low floor loading and wide powered doors the Surfliners were designed to cut the loading time in half over the old Amfleet cars. To get the Surfliners to run at 2 hours and 10 minutes will require run through tracks at LAUS, a 4 track railroad separating passenger and freight between Los Angeles and Fullerton, a flyover at the Fullerton junction between the BNSF mainline and the line to San Diego plus more double tracking in San Diego County. Most of this work should be done as part of the work for HSR service between Los Angeles and Anaheim. To get under 2 hours running time will require full grade separation to allow speeds of 110 miles per hour with tunnels at San Clemente, Del Mar and Sorrento Valley.
Yet today we have seen no reduction in running times between Los Angeles and San Diego since 1980. To be able to run trains on time will require more double tracking both north and south of Los Angeles and greater reliability of the equipment used on the corridor. Breakdowns of trains and of the railroad happened too often in the corridor to reliably run trains on time, let alone to shorten running time. Money together with will is needed to insure faster, reliable passenger service on the Surfliners.
The tilt train equipment such as is being considered for this experiment can be very useful. One of the most neglected regions for passenger service in this state is along the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This route is considered a high speed corridor by the FRA. Much of the right of way on this line has many curves and steep grades with would be perfect for a powerful tilting trainset. If two tilt trainsets could be leased and a grant issued for this service from the FRA, we could have Los Angeles to San Francisco service running in just a few years. With money come more bargaining power with the UP.Some modest track work would be needed for more siding and raised running speeds. But in very little time we could see service is under 7 hours between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This will give the State an early taste of higher speed rail service.
Rail Photos, Reports

Trip on the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to Yuma

Report and Photos by Mike Palmer, RailPAC correspondent, Torrance, CA

My work sent me on an assignment to Yuma, Arizona for two days, May 19-20. As luck would have it I was able to work my visit around train times – it also helped that there is limited LA – Yuma air service. (Side note: the locals said they usually drive to San Diego or Phoenix for flights. Either drive is 3 hours for them).

I had checked the Sunset’s recent on-time stats and they had been excellent. And so… I got to LAUS well before the 2:40 scheduled departure; the departure would be “on time” per the large lighted schedule board. Out on the platform, some luggage and express packages were staged for loading. (photo above) The crew showed up about 2:20, and then everyone waited. And waited. The trainset finally backed into the station at 3:00pm; (photo left) we did not depart until 3:45. Finally, somewhere near Fontana, we got up to speed. By then I was enjoying dinner – New York steak – amazingly good. At my table was a person traveling to Maricopa, and a couple from Canada doing a large circle tour on Amtrak (Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Sunset, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Empire Builder – starting and ending in Grand Forks, ND, and including a 2-week break in Charlotte for Nascar). The food was good – the service ok – but settling the check took forever…

After the Palm Springs smoking break we got up to speed but then stopped in Indio. The lounge attendant had placed an urgent call for the conductor. It turns out an underage person had become intoxicated in the lounge car, and fell and hit his head. He was out cold (I did not see him), and the ambulance was called. We sat there over an hour – the EMT’s (photo below) could not get a stretcher up the stairs in the lounge, so they had to remove a window and get the man out that way. It was dark by the time we left Indio, and we arrived in Yuma about two hours late.

Here’s the return trip: Yuma – the “station” is long gone – burned down in the 1990s (it had been converted to an art exhibit center anyway). The current platform is between the two main tracks opposite the Union Pacific’s crew office for the freight trains; Yuma marks the western edge of UP’s Tucson Division. Amtrak passengers access the platform through a tunnel next to the crew building. (photo below) All freight trains stop at the office to change crews; Amtrak passengers wait on outside benches and catch all the “action”. It’s a fascinating place for railfans, but most of the general public would likely prefer a waiting room. There is no canopy – maybe it’s a good thing Amtrak comes through at night when it is cooler. Per Amtrak’s “Julie” the train was about 90 minutes late when I called; that eventually extended to 2 hours late. Good enough. There were about a dozen passengers waiting, waiting…and about a dozen UP crew members! Turns out UP crews “hitch a ride” on the Sunset to get back to Colton yard, where they are based. A UP freight (photo left) entered the Yuma station, coming off the bridge. One mentioned that UP is exploring how to get a second track across the Colorado River. The current single track passes through Quechan Indian Tribal lands, and the tribe is not open to granting a wider easement to allow a second track [it is double track either side of the bridge].

There isn’t much open in Yuma at that time of night, but anyway, the train arrived at about 4:40am (about 2 hours late). Once we got going, the speed was much more impressive this time, and the track through Imperial County is still rough! There was a slight delay in leaving Palm Springs – waiting for a freight – but other than that the pace was much more in line with what I expected. We got into LA at 9:35am – enough time for people to make their Coast Starlight connection at 10:15am. (on the track at the right in the photo) Those with baggage likely missed the 9:40am departure of the Surfliner, but at least they had later options. Would I do it again? Maybe – depends on my work schedule. The lack of announcements on the eastbound was frustrating – it doesn’t get us there any faster but at least lets us know what is happening. NOTE: This report was first published in the June issue of the Western Rail Passenger Review as part of the Tracking Rail News column.

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May California Intercity Passenger Rail Performance

Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, CCJPA

The Capitol Corridor yielded positive results for May 2010 compared to May 2009 in all relevant performance statistics – ridership, revenue, and on-time performance.  Ridership for May was 1.4% above last year as was revenue (+2.9%).  On-time performance (OTP) set the record for the fiscal year at 95.9% – making the service once again the most reliable train service in the Amtrak system for May 2010 as well as fiscal year-to-date.

What is even more remarkable is that these positive ridership results have occurred while the three furlough Fridays per month for all state employees are still in effect.  These mandated furloughs have been dragging down the performance results for this year.  Based on conductors’ daily reports as well as my own personal observations, the trains were more crowded this last month than any prior month this fiscal year.  The Capitol Corridor train riders represent a diverse spread of users – students, leisure trippers, business travelers, youth/school groups – which has minimized the impact of the poor economy on the ridership (and revenue) results.  And having one of the most reliable trains in the country certainly helps to attract new riders and retain our loyal patrons.

With the multi-year tie-renewal program completed, OTP continues to excel at 92% year-to-date with a consistent, safe, reliable train ride for the passengers.  The current limitations to a better OTP are delays attributed to mechanical failures (primarily locomotive prime mover/head-end power and cab car controls) and drawbridge openings.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) High Speed /Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Awards
On January 28, 2010, President Obama released the names of the projects that will receive the $8 billion in ARRA HSIPR grants.  Of these awards, the Capitol Corridor will be the beneficiary of $29.2 million of these funds for three projects (Sacramento Railyard Relocation Project, Caltrain San Jose South Terminal Project, and Yolo Causeway West Crossover Project).
All three of these projects have been placed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the “Fast Track” project release process/program.

On May 27, 2010, the Obama Administration obligated $6.2 million in FRA ARRA HSIPR funds to the Sacramento Railyard Relocation Project.  These funds will fill a funding gap and allow for the installation of new grade-separated passenger platforms as part of the rail line relocation and intermodal station development program.

Staff is working with Caltrain and Caltrans Rail staff on the final touches of the remaining agreements and related documents to secure an obligation of the $18 million in FRA ARRA HSIPR funds for the San Jose South Terminal
Project.  The parties are attempting to get all tasks completed by June 18 so that the project can move into the construction phase.  The final agreements on the last remaining project, the Yolo Crossover Project (at $5
million), are expected to be complete and ready for FRA funding obligation by mid-July 2010.

Onboard Workshops on Caltrans Rail Car Specifications and Design Plans CCJPA mechanical staff have been working with Caltrans Rail staff on the specifications and design plans for the next generation of new rail cars and locomotives.  To apply for FRA federal grant funds for the purchase of new rolling stock, the passenger rail cars must meet the FRA’s standard specification for bi-level rail equipment – a requirement that was established with the federal passenger rail legislation in October 2008.

To that end, Caltrans Rail staff has held open houses in Sacramento, Fresno and southern California to present these new design plans to the public as part of the standardization process for the new rail cars.  To expand this outreach effort, the CCJPA teamed up with Caltrans Rail and held similar open houses onboard several afternoon Capitol Corridor trains in late May and early June.  These onboard workshops were welcomed by riders, who provided encouraging remarks as well as helpful advice on these design plans.  The next step is to provide a summary of these workshops to Caltrans Rail staff, who will then submit these user comments to the multi-agency working group charged with preparing the standardized specifications for the bi-level passenger rail cars.

(Download:  May 2010 Performance Report)

Capitol Corridor (May 2010):

  • Ridership: 138,616 riders; +1.4% vs. May 2009; -4.3% vs. prior YTD; -2.9% vs. FY10 Plan; -1.0% compared to 2 years ago
  • Revenue: +2.9% vs. May 2009; +0.7% vs. prior YTD; -4.8% vs. FY10 Plan
  • On-Time Performance: 96%, best month yet in FY10; YTD result of 92% keeping the service #1 in the nation for multi-frequency trains.
  • System Operating Ratio: 47% YTD vs. 47% in FY09; expenses remain under control, while revenue is still below plan
  • The Capitol Corridor route still continues to be third busiest route in the country, with ridership at 1.55 million for the last 12 months

Pacific Surfliners (May 2010):

  • Ridership: 241,152 passengers; +1.7% vs. May 2009, and +1.1% ahead of prior YTD; remains second busiest route in the nation, by a wide margin
  • Ticket Revenue only: +7.3% vs. May 2009, and +5.6% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for May 2010:  74% (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 79%)

San Joaquins (May 2010):

  • Ridership: 86,592 passengers  +2.0% vs. May 2009, and +5.1% v.s prior YTD; one of longest streaks of positive growth in Amtrak system
  • Ticket Revenue only: +18.4%  vs. May 2009, and +10.2% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for May 2010:  90%  (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 90%)
Tracking Rail News

Tracking Rail News: June 2010

Comments and PHOTOS by Russ Jackson

. . . Good news for Los Angeles Union Station. The lack of a variety of food items available in the LAUS waiting room has been lessened with the news that by July Peets Coffee and Tea, Subway Sandwiches, and Wetzel’s Pretzels will open, and later in the summer Famina Fresh Foods will open near the Amtrak ticket windows. These places will add to what is now available at the News Stand, Union Bagels and Coffee, and the very fine Traxx Restaurant and bar. Other changes at LAUS have the QuikTrak machines and the Budget and Hertz counters moved into the Amtrak Ticket area. Now, if only they could get the old Fred Harvey Restaurant open again! Train Day visitors were able to enter that historic place, and one visitor was amazed to find the bar area on its east side, closed too long.

. . . On Time Performance. Amtrak had a decent month of May, and as of the 23d the system was 81.3% OT. The western long distance trains continued to fare ok, with the Sunset Limited 80%, but falling below 90% for the Fiscal Year for the first time. On May 25 train #1 departed San Antonio OT but was stopped at Uvalde, TX. Severe rain storms had washed out the ballast around Del Rio, TX. The train returned to San Antonio, where passengers were offered the choice of continuing on to their destination by bus, or remain on the train with a projected arrival in Los Angeles approximately 12 hours late. The California Zephyr was 69.6% for the period, with the train encountering weather problems across much of the midwest. Train 6 which left Emeryville on the 22nd was delayed 1:39 ten miles east of Fort Morgan, Colorado, prepared to stop at culverts and bridges due to high wind and tornado warnings, and to remove tree branches. Earlier in the month #5 passengers had to return to Denver because of a 10-by-30 foot rock slide near Winter Park, CO, and on May 12 heavy rain caused a #6 detour across Iowa. RailPAC’s Ralph James tells us 5/6 are running again with full consists. Southwest Chief train 4, which left Los Angeles on the 22nd, was delayed 90 minutes 20 miles west of Lamar, CO, due to 70 mph wind warnings as the tornado threats across the midwest accelerated. For the month trains 3/4 had 89.1% OTP. The champion for May was the Coast Starlight, at 95.7% OT!

. . . Daily Sunset Limited? No news is good news? Not necessarily. The most recent news we heard was Amtrak and the UP were “still in negotiations.” Over what? Is the UP playing its usual game of saying “No” until they don’t? We are waiting, but then again we’ve been waiting decades. RailPAC President, Paul Dyson, commented on this issue and on the railroad’s “No” to access to its Las Vegas line for the newly proposed X and Z party trains: “Couple with the recent letter on HSR and the stalled negotiations over the daily Sunset and Coast Daylight, what part of “no” are we missing?” UP says they do not “endorse and will not allow gambling on its tracks.” Mr. Dyson adds, “We’re encouraging everyone to write to Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman just to show that the grass roots support is there. See Mr. Dyson’s letter in the May, 2010 issue of this publication. Meanwhile, in a May 17 article in the Arizona Republic, writer Sean Holstege reports that a new schedule for the Sunset Limited is under consideration to have the train stop in Maricopa at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Unfortunately, no rail return to Phoenix is anticipated, but the article quotes Amtrak Production Development Chief Brian Rosenwald, “If we run it daily, Tucson (ridership) could go sky-high.” He and his team “developed a business model to capture more riders at the Tucson station,” and to “reintroduce after a decade a bus from Phoenix and Tempe.” Cynics would say, “ho hum, we’ve only been telling them this for decades.”

. . . Train Day followup. National Train Day was a big success, with participation in large and small communities. Much has been written about that, but here is this writer’s report of where I was: Dallas Union Station. On display at DUS were the 1931 M-180 Doodlebug in ATSF colors that years ago worked the line to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and a heritage Pullman sleeping car, both now housed at the Museum of the American Railroad at nearby Fair Park. That museum is now under orders from the city to vacate the property, as it is underfunded and the land is needed for other purposes. The museum intends to move to nearby Frisco when funding is obtained. The successful TRE commuter line that runs from Dallas to Ft. Worth displayed a train set of a newly repainted F59PH locomotive and two bi-level Bombardier (UTDC)-built coaches. Inside the historic station were staffed displays from the successful DART system, which is undergoing the same financial crises as in other cities, and the new under-construction Denton County “A- Train” commuter rail line, a model railroad club, music, face painting, etc., and the Texas Rail Advocates who were selling souvenir t-shirts and whistles. Where was Amtrak? They had a staffed display table across from their ticket window, giving away packets of information including the timetables that would be out of date two days later. The new ones “were in the back somewhere,” but would not be available until they go into effect. And, Amtrak 21, the southbound Texas Eagle, arrived in Dallas 30 minutes late with 3 coaches, Diner-Lounge, Dining Car, and two sleeping cars (one of which is the crew dorm as well).


Dunsmuir Railroad Days

Dunsmuir, California is a historic train town that celebrates Railroad Days annually. This year’s event is taking place June 11-13 at the Dunsmuir Amtrak Station. We are excited that Dunsmuir is wanting to increase awareness of the Coast Starlight this year. RailPAC and Coast Starlight Communities Network will have materials displayed. Amtrak is supplying Coast Starlight timetables and route guides, kid’s conductors hats, system maps and posters.

Feather River Railroad Society and the Portola Railroad Museum will be participating and they will be bringing their historic cars and locomotives to Dunsmuir. Union Pacific’s Mini train will also be here along with Speeder cars for the public to ride. A Railroad Days button for $1 will be required for access to train related events in the railyard.

There will also be a parade, “little engineer” contest and other children’s activities. Food and Music will also be available. Railroad vendors as well as craft vendors will be showing their wares.

Events are subject to change
Friday, June 11: 5 – 9 PM: Meet The Trains event, live music, limited vendor activity on Sacramento Ave.
Saturday, June 12 7 AM – 10 PM: Rotary Club breakfast, River Run, public viewing of vintage trains at railyard, railroad display room at the depot, model trains in various locations downtown and at the depot, mini-train rides, kids’ fishing derby and activities at Children’s Park, parade, live entertainment, food and craft booths on Sacramento Ave. and Upper Pine. Train related events require $1 Railroad Days Button for access – Button good for all days.
Sunday, June 13 10 AM – 6 PM: All train-related events continue from previous day. Kids’ activities at Children’s Park. Gospel program (10-12 noon), followed by more live entertainment (12 noon – 6 PM). Food and craft booths on Sacramento Ave. and Upper Pine.

More information may also be obtained at (530) 235-4034 or by visiting and

RailPAC and the Coast Starlight Communities Network would like to thank the Dunsmuir Railroad Depot Historical Society for making it possible for our materials to be on display at the Dunsmuir Amtrak station throughout the year.