Monthly Archives

October 2011


eNewsletter for October 24, 2011

In the article California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark “said private investors, including rail operators and construction companies from Europe and Asia, have voiced interest in high-speed rail. The catch: Investors want to see a link to San Francisco or Los Angeles closer to completion before they put in billions, he said. It is precisely that link for which the state needs money. Mr. van Ark said the new business plan would include scaled-back options that would link the new track to existing commuter transit lines in the two cities and, as a last resort, perhaps Amtrak lines.”

October 24, 2011

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Amtrak 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train… Coming soon!

Exhibit Train Schedule for the West Coast

Can you hear the sound of a whistle? To commemorate our 40th Anniversary, we’ve put together a special train with displays of photos, uniforms, china, and memorabilia from America’s Railroad? while also offering a glimpse into the future.

The Amtrak Exhibit Train is coming soon to a station near you.

•Seattle, WA (Oct 22 – 23)
•Portland, OR (Oct 29 – 30)
•Sacramento, CA (Nov 5 – 6)
•Oakland, CA (Nov 12 – 13)
•Bakersfield, CA (Nov 19 – 20)
•San Diego, CA (Dec 3 – 4)
•Los Angeles, CA (Dec 10 – 11)

For more about the 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train:


Big Changes coming for California High Speed Rail?

Opinion by Noel T. Braymer

There are hints that the revised Business Plan now due on November 1st for the California High Speed Rail Project will reflect current economic realities. The October 16th Wall Street Journal reports the project will be built incrementally with greater use of existing track. The possibility that the new trackage could be used at first by the San Joaquin Trains is being raised. In the article California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark “said private investors, including rail operators and construction companies from Europe and Asia, have voiced interest in high-speed rail. The catch: Investors want to see a link to San Francisco or Los Angeles closer to completion before they put in billions, he said. It is precisely that link for which the state needs money. Mr. van Ark said the new business plan would include scaled-back options that would link the new track to existing commuter transit lines in the two cities and, as a last resort, perhaps Amtrak lines.”

What could this look like? The new Bi-level Corridor Cars which California will be getting in a few years are rated for 125 miles per hour. New locomotives are also being built that will be geared for 125 miles per hour. Federal Railroad Administration regulations allow operation of speeds up to 125 miles per hour with grade crossings. For speeds above 79 miles per hour improved signalling such as in-cab signalling which automatically apply brakes if a red signal is passed is required. This will be available with Positive Train Control which will be available State-wide by the end of 2015. For speeds above 90 to 110 miles per hour grade crossings would have to be upgraded to “Sealed Corridor” standards. For speeds between 111 and 125 miles per hour grade crossing would have to have movable barriers capable of stopping a truck to block a grade crossing when a train passes. While these improvements will not be cheap they will cost a great deal less than full grade separation.

There is the possibility that we could see these new faster Corridor trainsets on the San Joaquins and greatly reduced running times if new HSR trackage and upgraded trackage for speeds above the current top of 79 miles per hour was available on the BNSF in the San Joaquin Valley. This brings up the question of expanded service with faster San Joaquins ?  That would require additional and possibly even faster equipment. That also brings up the UP. The Union Pacific Railroad is unlikely to allow speeds faster than 79 miles per hour on their tracks used by the San Joaquins west of Port Chicago or north of Stockton. It is also unlikely that the UP will allow many more passenger trains on their lines. Faster San Joaquins will increase demand for more and express trains bypassing some smaller towns in the Valley to allow shorter running times. The Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) hopes to buy their own right of way and tracks which would allow faster and more frequent commuter trains between Stockton and San Jose. A bit out of the way if this happens this could be an alternative route for additional San Joaquins with possible direct service to San Francisco. Another alternative is possible if an agreement was reached with the BNSF is to extend additional trains to Richmond. This would bypass Martinez and high speed ferries would be needed to get passengers to San Francisco as well as shuttle buses to the Richmond BART/Amtrak Station. But there might not be many other options short term in the Bay Area.

The big issue is creating a new rail connection south of Bakersfield to Los Angeles and Southern California. That is the market potential investors want to see before getting involved with High Speed Rail service in California. A new rail connection south of Bakersfield will be expensive, in the billions of dollars. Once connected to Metrolink tracks interim service could start serving most of Southern California until High Speed tracks could be built. Los Angeles County is now studying with Metrolink upgrading service between Los Angeles to Lancaster for speeds above 100 miles per hour. A bare bones largely single tracked line south of Bakerfield would be enough for start up service and it wouldn’t have to be built for 220 miles per hour speeds from day one. But if the State is to create a north/south rail passenger service the key for it is between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

It would be worthwhile for the state to concentrate its limited resources towards building as much faster passenger rail service for the public to use as soon as possible instead of trying to build a dream service. That would mean finding funding to prioritize the construction of a bare-bones passenger rail link between Bakersfield and Metrolink. Much of the planning for future High Speed Rail connections outside of the core service should be put on hold. Construction in the San Joaquin Valley could be largely shifted to double and triple tracking large segments of the BNSF and upgrading or eliminating grade crossings for higher speeds. This work should be seen as stage one to using much of these improvements for the future High Speed Rail trackage much of which will share right of way with the BNSF. This will require much less environmental review and avoid fights with land owners as long as most construction stays in the BNSF right of way. Expensive and controversial segments such the Hanford and Corcoran bypasses should be delayed until there is more support for rail service which will come with improved service. A goal of Los Angeles to the Bay Area and Sacramento rail passenger service of under 5 hours in less than 10 years with hourly service to the San Joaquin Valley is possible with limited funding.This will not compete with air service in this corridor but is faster than traveling by auto legally. Today passenger rail service can take 12 hours to get from Los Angeles to the Bay Area and there is no direct rail service from Southern California to the San Joaquin Valley. A good start is better than a perfect nothing.


eNewsletter for October 17, 2011

Planning for the San Joaquin Valley alignment has been ongoing for at least 5 years. If the people in the Valley and the High Speed Rail Authority can’t come to an agreement soon on where to build HSR, there are plenty of other places which are ready to take the money and run with it. Orange and Los Angeles Counties come to mind. Based on work done or ongoing I believe in a short time with funding we could see construction begun on four tracks between Los Angeles and Fullerton with complete grade-separation. We could get run through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station plus track and signal upgrades between Anaheim and Lancaster for speeds over 100 miles per hour. Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties are planning a freeway between Palmdale and Victorville with a median reserved for fast rail service. With funding this could be accelerated and tied in to rail service to Las Vegas. NB

October 17,2011

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Update: Texas Eagle burglarized at San Antonio

Gene Poon has updated this story for us, giving more details of a story that has implications for Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle passengers going through San Antonio and laying overnight on the train there.

San Antonio Police reportedly have gotten some suspects to talk about
how the Texas Eagle was burglarized, and passenger hand baggage stolen
while the train was laying over at the station with the occupied through
cars from Los Angeles. A conductor’s grip, and the credit card machine
in the Lounge car were also stolen.

There are some homeless people who “live” near the San Antonio station.
One of them got cleaned up and dressed nicely. He pretended to be a
passenger, came aboard with other passengers reboarding the through
coach from Los Angeles, then waited for the cars to be tied onto the
Eagle, and for the coast to clear. He then opened a door on the
opposite side of the train, where they could not be seen from the
station or the active platform. Others boarded, and they took the bags
from the downstairs racks, tossing them out the door to others who were
waiting. It took only a couple of minutes once the door was opened,
that was all.

I don’t have details about how a conductor’s grip and credit card
machine were taken.

Passenger bags were opened and valuable items such as electronic
devices, laptop computers and cameras were taken. Clothing was left
behind and the bags were ditched near the Alamodome stadium.

Original story:

Report by Gene Poon

The following was posted on “Railspot” on 25SEP2011. There is no
further information on Railspot or local media: “Today’s northbound
Texas Eagle from San Antonio was robbed overnight while at San
Antonio, with the cars in from LA being broken into as well as the
staff car. All luggage was taken belonging to the passengers as well
as the Amtrak staff that was downstairs in the cars. Reportedly,
even the possessions of the Amtrak crew, including the conductor,
were taken. Police believe it may have been done by a drug gang that
hangs out in the area.”

I have been unable to find any story about this incident in San Antonio
media. The original author on Railspot has posted that “Several
people have asked me my source on this report. I was called directly
from some folks on the train.”

It’s been several years since I occupied the Eagle’s through cars
during its layover at San Antonio, (passengers originating at San
Antonio are not permitted to do so) but when I did, the cars were
left with their doors closed. I can’t say whether there were any
employees aboard or nearby, but I was able to walk the train without
running into anybody at all. The doors in the Superliners were closed
but it would have been easy for anyone with a 2×4 a few feet long to
undo the dogs at the upper part of a side entry door (if they even
had been set); then open the door with the easily-reachable outside
door handle. For safety reasons, the side entry doors must be left
unlocked whenever the train is occupied. If there were anyone in
the station, any activity on the opposite side of the train would not
have been visible to them. There was more security at the
restaurant-bar in the former SP station a short distance east along
the tracks, than there was at the Amtrak station.

Here is an update from the source of the original story, posted the
next day: “According to Amtrak and folks on the Eagle, the stolen
luggage was found yesterday afternoon scattered about in the area of
the Alamodome (adjacent to the station). Apparently, a bunch of
homeless folks took the bags and tore into them looking for
valuables. According to San Antonio police, the bags are pretty torn
up and the clothes and such were scattered around the area. No
electronics or such were found, including things like the Amtrak
credit card machine used on the train and reportedly missing.
Passengers on the Eagle received calls yesterday afternoon/evening
with the basic information. According to folks on the train, after
the 10pm arrival, passengers were invited to get out and walk town
and the train doors were left open and the car attendants went
elsewhere to set up rooms, change sheets, etc. It wasn’t until
passengers got up Sunday morning for breakfast that anyone realized
that the bags were gone.”

One of the comments I received on this story said, “Fortunately,
Amtrak does not owe these passengers anything under its contract to
the extent non-checked baggage is involved. Passengers are solely
responsible for the security of their hand luggage carried on board.”
Unfortunately for Amtrak, it is likely that none of the “Guests” who
lost property will ever return.

Another comment brought up a serious topic: “I would think this
incident would raise alarm bells with Amtrak and the Department of
Homeland Security. If this many travel bags can be so easily stolen
from a train, imagine how many (bags) with weapons of destruction
could just as easily be added.”


September 2011 CA Intercity Passenger Rail Performance

Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Continuing the positive trend from the previous nineteen months, the Capitol Corridor performance in September 2011 maintained a steady upward trend compared to September 2010. September 2011 ridership was 145,894 an 11 % increase over September 2010. Revenue showed even better results with a 16% increase over September 2010. Both of these results were records for the month of September. On-time performance (OTP) was 94%, continuing to keep the Capitol Corridor as the nation’s OTP leader in the Amtrak system for the last two consecutive years, thanks to UPRR’s stellar dispatching and Amtrak’s commitment to improving mechanical performance.

A primary reason for the ridership increase can be seen in the gains associated with UPRR’s OTP as well as discounts offered on the Capitol Corridor: Seniors Ride Half-Off during the midday/mid-weekday trains, Kids Ride Free on Weekends, group travel promotions and discounted trains to the Oakland Coliseum station for the Ringling Brothers circus, A’s and Raider games.

FFY2011 Projected Results

The September 2011 performance results also mark the closing out of federal Fiscal Year (FFY)2011 (October 2010 – September 2011). The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) is thrilled to announce another recordbreaking year. For FFY2011, ridership totaled 1,708,618 million, 8% above FY2010. Projected year-end revenues were up 12% compared to FFY2010. OTP for FFY2011 was 95%, slightly higher than FFY2010’s 93% OTP results, making the Capitol Corridor the most reliable route in the Amtrak system for two years straight. The projected System Operating (or Farebox) Ratio ended at 49%.

As stated earlier, the entire fiscal year of FFY2011 yielded consistent positive results compared to prior year monthly results, which can be attributed to the end of furlough Fridays for state workers, our slowly recovering economy, remarkable OTP by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) and successful marketing promotions. These overall positive results for FFY2011 resulted in a recordbreaking performance year, with many months setting records and showing double-digit increases compared to the same periods in FFY2010.

In addition, rising gas prices, recordbreaking performance results, a media relations partnership with APTA, the annual Fight Hunger food drive and other news worthy issues helped to garner nearly $1.4 million dollars in earned media value for this federal fiscal year—the most news coverage the Capitol Corridor has achieved in its operating history.

FFY2011 Federal Grants

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) announced its $68 million award to California’s intercity passenger rail service to procure state-of-the-art train cars and cleaner-running locomotives. The $68 million supplements a prior obligation of $100 million in federal funds earmarked for California. These federal funds, combined with California’s 20% match of $42 million brings a total reinvestment of $210 million—which is expected to bring 10 new cars and two locomotives to the Capitol Corridor in about four years.

Just as the FFY came to a close, the Federal Railroad Administration obligated $4.8 million needed to build the Yolo crossover. The agreement between Caltrans and the FRA was signed off on September 30, thus providing ARRA funds to help create up to 125 jobs and “buy American” materials for a track project that will help enhance efficient service on the Capitol Corridor route.

Looking Ahead – FFY2012
For FFY 2012, service performance is expected to continue its steady improvement. The CCJPA will continue to work with our service partners to retain and attract new riders, enhance passenger safety, maintain excellent service reliability and provide superior customer service.

To supplement this report, attached is a pdf file (please see website) highlighting some of the key activities that have occurred since the previous monthly performance report.

Capitol Corridor (September 2011):
– Ridership: 145,894 riders; +11% vs. September 2010; +8% vs. prior YTD
– Revenue: $2,194,480; +17% vs. September 2010; +12% vs. prior YTD;
– On-Time Performance: 94%; YTD OTP of 95% (again keeping the Capitol Corridor service #1 in the nation).
– System Operating Ratio: 49% YTD vs. 47% in FY10; continued growth in ridership and revenue keep ratio at standard; however, diesel fuel prices remain a budget concern.

The Capitol Corridor route continues to be third busiest route in the country, with ridership at recordbreaking 1.7 million for the last 12 months.
Pacific Surfliners (September 2011):
– Ridership: 210,528 passengers; +5% vs. September 2010, and +7% ahead of prior YTD
– Ticket Revenue only: +20% vs. September 2010, and +12% vs. prior YTD
– On-time performance for September 2011 73% (YTD FY 2011 on-time
performance: 78%)
San Joaquin (September 2011):
– Ridership: 85,736 passengers +19% vs. September 2010, and +9% vs. prior YTD
– Ticket Revenue only: +19% vs. September 2010, and +14% vs. prior YTD
– On-time performance for September 2011: 90% (YTD FY 2011 on-time
performance: 90%)


Enewsletter EXTRA: LOSSAN new services

The following material are highlights from the information package included in the Agenda for the Board Meeting for the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency held on September 28, 2011 in Los Angeles. This material is posted on the LOSSAN web site.

Enewsletter EXTRA LOSSAN

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and  you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like an emailed copy of this enewsletter or to subscribe to it email


eNewsletter for October 10, 2011

Could HSR derail Hanford Amtrak station?
Hanford Sentinel – Eiji Yamashita Oct 4, 2011
Rail officials predict negligible impact from the switch, while many locals consider the existing Amtrak train system as a key component of Hanford’s …
It seems the plan for HSR assumes the elimination of the San Joaquin Trains. This would leave several communities in the Valley with no rail service or connections to High Speed Rail. The planning for High Speed Rail should include good connections with local rail and bus services with shared transportation centers for seamless transfers. NB


October 10, 2011

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Santa Clarita to the Green Line to Orange County by Rail?

Opinion by Noel T. Braymer

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is currently conducting a study of what to do with what is left of about 20 miles of what was the Pacific Electric’s West Santa Ana Branch. This right of way has been publicly owned by the Counties of Los Angeles and Orange since the 1980’s between Paramount and Santa Ana. The SCAG study is looking at several modes including Mag-Lev, Commuter Rail, Light Rail, Busway and so on. SCAG plans to complete their study of what to do with this right of way by the end of this year. SCAG is studying service between the Green Line and 710 Freeway to Santa Ana with possible connections to LAX and or downtown Los Angeles. It would be possible to use street running on Santa Ana Blvd in Santa Ana for Light Rail connections from the Santa Ana Transportation Center to the West Santa Ana Branch. In fact the Cities of Santa Ana and Garden Grove have proposed doing that as a local streetcar service that would run as far as Garden Grove on the right of way. This right of way is eligible for $250 million in funding in Los Angeles County from the Measure R half cent tax as of 2015 and for possible Federal Funding after the completion after the SCAG study.

Here is where it gets interesting. There is the Orange Line Development Authority or OLDA which is composed of 13 cities and Bob Hope Airport. Some of the cities in this authority include Santa Clarita, Glendale and Bellflower. All of the cities in the OLDA are in Los Angeles County. Some of the cities such as Bellflower, Cerritos and Paramount are on the West Santa Ana Branch Line. This government authority is proposing a fast transit service from Orange County up to downtown Los Angeles and Santa Clarita. The Authority’s original plan was for building 110 mile per hour fully grade separated Mag Lev service. Their webpage has several images of elevated Mag Lev stations but the Authority is flexible about the technology.

How can this be done? Getting from Paramount to Santa Clarita is the easy part. Where the West Santa Ana Branch ends in Paramount is next to the old UP Harbor Line which connects to downtown Los Angeles and could be connected to Los Angeles Union Station and continue to Santa Clarita. The former UP Harbor Line is now owned by Los Angeles County but would need upgrading for passenger service. There are studies underway now for Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley about possible fast service over 100 miles per hour on Metrolink . North of downtown Los Angeles OLDA’s proposed service would need the cooperation of Metrolink since it controls the only viable right of way. The main problems will be on the West Santa Ana Branch. To have connections with the Santa Ana Transportation Center would likely require either street running or a tunnel under Santa Ana and would be competing with the streetcar project. One solution might be to run the streetcar service to Stanton Junction. At Stanton is a UP branch line that runs past the West Santa Ana Branch and can connect with the Anaheim Station. This route goes around Disneyland but not to it, there is a mile of street running and would require the cooperation of the Union Pacific. This UP Line goes almost to the back of the Disneyland Hotel and if there was a tunnel under Disneyland and the 5 Freeway, there could be a station for Disneyland and a faster connection with the future Anaheim Regional Intermodal Transportation Center (ARTIC). A problem with the West Santa Ana Branch is the major streets are laid out in a grid and the rail line runs at a diagonal across them. This complicates grade crossing and there will be strong local demand for grade separation.

It would make sense if the West Santa Ana Branch was built as Light Rail since this would allow connections to the Green Line from Orange County to LAX and much of the rest of the Los Angeles Metrorail service. But the plan of the OLDA is for service on both the old UP Harbor Line and PE West Santa Ana Branch. LA Metro shows possible service from the West Santa Ana Branch to downtown Los Angeles on their map of projects being funded by Measure R but doesn’t show this line going to Santa Clarita.  One possible solution would be to fix up the UP Harbor Line and have Metrolink take it over. Service could begin in Long Beach or maybe even San Pedro and connect with the Blue Line. Near the Century Freeway there could be a transfer station with Light Rail trains from Orange County for the Green Line and LAX. At BNSF’s Hobart Yard a connection would be needed to get these trains to Los Angeles Union Station on the route of the Amtrak Surfliner and Orange County Metrolink trains. Such a service would need run-through tracks at Union Station to operate efficiently. From Union Station the service could use existing and future tracks improvements to Santa Clarita. Linking to the LA-Long Beach Blue line near downtown Los Angeles would be both slow and overwhelm the already busy Blue Line.

Linking the West Santa Ana Branch to the Santa Ana and Anaheim Transportation Centers makes a get deal of sense. The UP Harbor Line has a great deal of potential as a new connecting link. The OLDA has plans for a fast, fully grade separated project costing over 3 billion dollars.  Given economic realities most of this project should be run as a Metrolink train using mostly available trackage. Depending on funding it may be possible to run this as Metrolink service to Stanton and on to Anaheim. It may be possible to share right of way with both Light Rail and Metrolink.This could connect with Light Rail in Orange County at Stanton to Santa Ana. Whatever happens will be determined by how much money is available.


Sacramento Rail station improvements underway

Commentary and photos by Russ Jackson, RailPAC

Did you know the very busy Sacramento Valley Rail Station, known today as the Sacramento Amtrak Station on I Street, was built in the 1920’s on a lake bed? That lake, called “China Slough” and “Sutter Lake,” was filled in when the current historic station that still serves thousands of train riders every day was built. CC Riders chief, Chuck Robuck, tells us that photos from the early days show a large body of water between what was the Southern Pacific shops and Old Sacramento. “It was one big cesspool, which prompted the City to construct its first sewer system,” Chuck says,” and I was particularly interested in the Lake because we are planning to build a new criminal courthouse right smack dab where the lake used to be…no doubt we’ll find some interesting artifacts when construction begins.”

From 1999 to 2008 this writer lived in Northern California, not far from Sacramento, and was a frequent visitor to and rider to/from the train station and the adjacent California State Rail Museum. During that decade decisions were made and many avoided about restoring the station, moving the tracks, and rebuilding the adjacent SP Railyards. The current decade has finally produced some action, with the Union Pacific work on moving the tracks underway which will take them away from the current station alignment and eliminate the “S” curve east of the station. This reconstructed route is the original one used by the Southern Pacific to bypass the “lake” until the 1926 station was built.

To see some current photos of that new construction, see and to see an aerial photo of it, see Our thanks to Chuck Robuck for providing us these links.

Now, having said that I was around during some of the discussion about relocating the station, I must comment that I was alarmed when shown the first drafts of the station relocation project ten years ago. The idea that the historic station would be picked up and moved hundreds of yards north was something I thought was unrealistic, both from practical and monetary standpoints, and I said so in the pages of the Western Rail Passenger Review, and at meetings in Sacramento. Moving it, so that development could take place on its current site, was to be done in the name of making it closer to the track realignment. Fortunately, that proposal is dead and the station will remain at its historic location.

What definitely must happen is continuing to make that old building into a facility that is modern and safe. During the last decade many improvements were made to work toward that goal, with new signs, a new thruway bus station, platforms elevated, the Sacramento RT station addition, and parking lot paving. More is also now underway, and we are proud of the progress being made in that direction, too, as explained on September 26, 2011, by the excellent rail writer for the Sacramento Bee, Tony Bizjak: “Downtown Depot: Sometimes the hinges go and the door sags. That’s the case with the I Street Depot. Last week, the city, which owns it, launched a $13 million rehab project on the dilapidated 1926 structure, mainly shoring up the walls to bring it to modern earthquake standards. The city estimates it will spend another $27 million in work on the building in the next few years as part of a plan for a new transit center in the railyard. Officials say they intend to keep the grand old building – and its wondrous main hall – as a central figure in the modern transit complex. They also want to give it some contemporary, crowd-drawing attractions: a major restaurant, offices and store space. “This is an important landmark, a gateway, a destination,” city official Hinda Chandler said. ‘It’s being renewed.'”

Isn’t it a shame that so many years have to go by before action takes place? In this case the wait may be worth it. Chuck Robuck told his CCRiders, “We’re probably about a year away from relocating the tracks/platforms to the area near the historic shops.” But, the City still has to come to agreement on what is to be done with the area north of the relocated tracks, which is now ticketed to be the new location for the sports arena where the Sacramento Kings will play, assuming the club’s owners will stay in Sacramento. They have given the City a year to come up with a viable plan or they could move the team to Anaheim. Isn’t it fun to be in the government business?