By Noel T. Braymer

In the last 3 years there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail in this country. This new market has been eagerly embraced by the rail industry which naturally is looking for more business. But this has come at a price. The combination of last year’s harsh winter and the growth in oil train traffic created major congestion on parts of the rail network. This caused delays for many shippers as well as for passenger trains.

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By Noel T. Braymer

A great rail destination is one where the station is a destination and a short walking distance to places to see with plenty to do. If you like a place that is different, with lots of history, scenery, places to shop and eat: then San Juan Capistrano is a great place to visit. The Spanish first colonize San Juan Capistrano back in 1776. But the area has been inhabited for thousands of years. And the local train station is in the heart of it all.

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By Noel T. Braymer

The Sacramento station is already one of the busiest Amtrak Station in California. There is excellent ridership from the Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight and California Zephyr trains. The same however can’t be said about the 2 round trips a day on the San Joaquin trains to and from Bakersfield. Why is that?

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By Noel T. Braymer

It’s expensive to build a new railroad. Even improvements to existing railroads aren’t cheap. Plus there are few places to build railroads today at any price, particularly in cities. As it is funding is always tight for any form of transportation construction. This is why is it often better to share rail rights of ways and infrastructure than trying to bulldoze your way through with all new construction.

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By Noel T. Braymer

Technically most trains already run on electricity. Diesel-electric locomotives use a diesel engine to generate electricity to power the electric motors in the locomotive’s trucks. The question is will trains continue to be powered by fossil fuels?  The cost of energy is a big issue for train operators. In North America there are plans to change over to diesel locomotives fueled by Liquid Natural Gas. With Natural Gas currently much cheaper than diesel fuel this seems to make a great deal of sense.

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By Noel T. Braymer

On April 9th the Metropolitan Transportation Commission had a committee meeting to reallocate money from stalled projects to others ready to go. Among the stalled projects in the Bay Area is the effort to repair the Dumbarton Rail Bridge between Redwood City and Fremont and establish rush hour commuter rail service from the East Bay to both San Francisco and San Jose. The biggest “winner” in this budget reallocation was BART which was forgiven 91 million dollars from a “loan” of Dumbarton Bridge money. What lead to this decision was the failure back in the November election of 2012 of a transit sales tax for Alameda County to be passed by less than one percent of a 2/3 majority needed for passage. Without Alameda County’s funding the projects had less than half of the minimum $700 million dollars needed for this project.

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By Noel T. Braymer

Tourists come to visit California from all over the world. Many of them would love to take the train here; just like they do back home, if they knew how. Most tourists would prefer to travel without getting stuck or lost in California traffic. But little is done to help visitors to get around by train. There is the California Rail Pass. It is good for 7 days of travel in California on most Amtrak trains over a period of 21 days. At $159 dollars for an adult and $79.50 per child it is a great deal! Many more tourists would ride the trains in California if they knew about the California Rail Pass.

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By Noel T. Braymer

The California High Speed Rail Authority has signed a construction contract for work in the Fresno area. Final construction plans are being made, some land has been cleared around Fresno and the process of buying right of way around Fresno is underway. This spring the Authority plans to award a second major construction contract for most of the new railroad south of Fresno to a point near the  Kern County Line north of Bakersfield. What is unknown is when or even if the 4.5 billion dollars from Prop 1A bond money approved so far by the legislature out of 9.95 billion will be released by the courts. Of this money 2.6 billion dollars is the State’s share for the current 5.8 billion dollars for construction in the San Joaquin Valley. The Federal share for construction is 3.2 billion dollars. Another 1.9 billion dollars is for the Prop 1A bond money planned to help fund several projects around the State for projects to help feed passengers to the future High Speed Rail network.

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Story and Photos By Noel T. Braymer

Most modern train stations are little more than parking lots with platforms far away from someplace people want to go to. Your busier stations are transportation centers with good connections to other trains and other travel modes like bus and rail transit. Few train stations today are destinations. People often travel for fun to go to places that are interesting with things to see and do; not because they have to go there. More people will ride the train when it is the best way to go to popular destinations.

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By Noel T. Braymer

Most of the attention now in the San Joaquin Valley is focused on High Speed Rail Construction. This would build 130 miles of new railroad between Madrea and Bakersfield in the next few years. This railroad would be first used for up to 11 express San Joaquin round trip trains a day with new equipment capable of speed up to 125 miles per hour and running before 2020. But there are also longer range plans to expand San Joaquin service and increase speeds of the trains on the current route up to 90 miles per hour from the current 79 miles per hour. In the future the plan is to increase Bakersfield to Oakland frequencies from 4 to between 6 to 10 round trips a day. There are also long term plans to increase the current 2 round trips from Bakersfield to Sacramento up to 6 round trips a day. But for any of this to happen will require track improvements. Here is what is planned and is available in the San Joaquin Valley.

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