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 Post subject: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 8:30 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:10 am
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http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/8/24/132130/286

The above link goes to an excellent essay on why preserving and revitalizing America's rail infrastructure is so vital.

It is a must read. Be warned, it is on a progressive blog site, so other content there could make you happy or sad, depending. This article should not offend.

The author understands exactly why I am not pro-trail except as a last resort.

What does this have to do with heritage or tourist trains? A lot. In England, we are seeing numerous lines saved from scrap by buffs, and not only restored for steam but also for regular local services (some steam, most not).

This essay combined with England's "community rail" movement give us some clear insight into why we must save or rail bank all existing corridors.

The preservation community has a huge roe to play in this.

Rob


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:05 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
I'm up to the point in Rush Loving's "The Men Who Loved Trains" where the Penn Central officials were frantically trying to get government support for a bailout of the rapidly self-destructing railroad.

Their problem in 1970 was that both the public and the government officials knew only two things about railroads: steam locomotives and passenger trains. No one--NO one--had a clue how vital the railroads and their freight were to the national infrastructure and economy.

A lot of that mentality is reflected in the essay at Daily Kos and its comments.

Almost monthly, I run into commuters who either regularly use MARC or VRE or have forsaken it for the routine delays. Their truly honest belief is that the state(s) OWNS CSX and that CSX is obligated to bow completely to the whims of the commuters. To which CSX crews have righteously answered, "Let's see, we already GIVE you the railroad from 5 to 9 in the mornings and 3 to 8 at night, and we have our own freight to run. Whose railroad is it anyway? Wait until CSX refuses to lease trackage rights to MARC and VRE and watch the sh** hit the fan when CSX tells them, 'Here's the right-of-way; build your own damn tracks!'"

In reading the Daily Kos commentary and its replying comments, I note that there are some intelligent attempts to note the 'apples and oranges" of the comparisons between foreign systems and the USA. Nonetheless, the prevailing mindset, heavily reflected in the Kos crowd, still appears to be that the railroad system/network is a publicly-owned resource to be exploited by government at government expense, never mind that the railroads built the systems and pay real estate taxes on that land. This certainly isn't the place to debate whether government should have a hand in transportation infrastructure and how much, but we as transportation experts and advocates do owe the public an education in the hugely different models upon which rails, air travel, Fed Ex, truckers, etc. operate, or even the difference between trackage owned by a commuter agency and that owned by a "Super Seven" or even a short line.

As to what this has to do with rail preservation? Just as a random semi-farcical example, the Strasburg Railroad. Imagine if some locals demanded a commuter connection to Leaman Place to connect with (hypothetical) expanded SEPTA train service to Lancaster/Philly. And the people demanding them are all our stereotype "yuppie" enemies, who have all moved into the housing developments that occupy what were Amish farms (they were driven out by pollution concerns--the yuppies complained about the manure left by the buggies and spread in the fields). And worse, they see a train (now dieselized after smoke complaints!) and the state museum across the street, and lobby everyone in the county on/to the belief that the railroad is Commonwealth property, to be exploited for their transportation needs, and they demand light rail to Lancaster, with stops at the housing developments at Red Caboose Motel, Cherry Hill, Groffs Grove and Carpenters!

You think I'm crazy or on drugs? Remember, there's still a Light Rail proposal for the Grand Canyon Railroad's north end......... And at least one commuter service (I think two) have started up with commuter cars originally bought by a preservation-minded broker, with other examples just unveiled in original colors at the Illinois Railway Museum.........


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:37 pm 

Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:54 am
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Sorry to have to say this, but public relations and sales promotion seem to often get the back burner with both the railroads and the preservation community, and among our so-called "national" railroad historical societies the effort to promote their own activities or let the public know they exist is somewhere between very feeble and a complete joke. It is hardly surprising that the outside world knows very little of the railroad industry, the preservation community, or the railroad enthusiast hobby.

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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:14 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
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It should be pointed out, Sandy, that light rail did once exist between Strasburg and Lancaster, when the cars of Conestoga Traction Co. operated along the berm of Route 741 from Penn Square in Lancaster to the town square in Strasburg, meeting headlight to headlight with the passenger trains of the Strasburg Railroad, which also once came into the square, I believe.


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8636
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Quote:
It should be pointed out, Sandy, that light rail did once exist between Strasburg and Lancaster, when the cars of Conestoga Traction Co. operated along the berm of Route 741 from Penn Square in Lancaster to the town square in Strasburg, meeting headlight to headlight with the passenger trains of the Strasburg Railroad, which also once came into the square, I believe.


[sarcasm]
"Oh, sure, but we can't rip up 741/896 for rebuilding and close down a vital transportation artery for *that*! The existing railroad already has a park-and-ride facility for us, and we can connect with trains to Philadelphia as well......... the state OWES us a transportation alternative, after all..... And I want a park-and-ride next to my McMansion development at Groffs Grove......"
[/sarcasm]

Oddly, there has been for decades now a movement to extend SEPTA service to Lancaster with a cross-platform connection at Strasburg. At one time, among the biggest activists for this proposal was the Amish community, which offered to construct the Leaman Place station for Amtrak/SEPTA as their contribution.


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:42 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 1:04 pm
Posts: 625
TVRM has returned freight traffic to their line that was preservered for the use of tourist trains. They have also bought the line connecting them to the outside world from East Chattanooga which includes operating the remaining freight traffic. On our Pee Dee River Railway we just returned 3.5 miles of railroad to service that had not seen a train in at least 30 years. It is very true that if these lines remain intact long enough many will find a way to come back to life hauling freight. Obviously this happens on both sides of the pond.

John Bohon


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:46 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:10 am
Posts: 2372
Sandy, I think you missed the point of what this has to do with preservation. It is not about Strasburg strawmen (farcical or not) nor about how the system works now.

In fact, it isn't even about the failed policies of the past.


It is about opportunity. Specifically the opportunity for preservatiuon to take on a very valuable and visible social benefit.

If you look at the community rail initiative in England, you will see that trail projects are being stopped in favor of heritage railroads offering combinations of steam services and MU powered commuter services.

There is no reason to believe such programs wouldn't work here.

No, it is not about high speed trains to Strasburg, but maybe it is about saving feeder lines that would otherwise be lost.

What if the CNJ from Three Bridges east had benefitted from a social preservation program? Or even better, the CNJ east and west of where my commuter train is now, Matawan, NJ? What if there were a program that encouraged such private/public initiatives that supported preservation and the public?

We are seeing the trend somewhat here.I offer the Upper Hudson as an example.

It is also worth noting that the major railoads are not the great bastion of free trade you make them out to be, and they never have been. They take their government handouts like every other supposedly "private" corporation.

Is it wrong to expect in a progressive world that government dollars could support the cause of society, history and industry?

What I took away from the article, and why I shared it here to a community I respect, is that it does show that preservation could have an untapped potential (and funding source) if we are willing change the paradigm just a little bit.

Acela to Strasburg? Unlikely. How about steam and RDC's from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre?



Rob


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:03 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8636
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Quote:
Is it wrong to expect in a progressive world that government dollars could support the cause of society, history and industry?


While trying (perhaps in vain) to keep politics off of this board, I would attempt to reply "we all agree on the goal; we just disagree on how to get there." Or as W.C. Fields or George Bernard Shaw supposedly said to a matron he propositioned, "We've already established what you are, ma'am. We're just negotiating the price."

We would probably have to debate lustily as to whether this world is (or even truly can be) really "progressive" and what that term means. Two different interpretations of the same action could be "preserving a vital transportation corridor for the public benefit" and "the confiscation of private property without due process or compensation because busybodies think they know better than investors and corporations". The same "progressives" that help one party preserve a rail corridor may just as willingly--and rightfully--fight the excursion line that wants to lay rails back on the NIMBYs' treasured weekend strolling path.

I'm sorry, but the above quote from RJD is simply too wishy-washy to be of any consideration. It's as bad a cliche as "won't someone think of the children?" The philosophical problem that I have is that, to many "progressives," the government is the answer of first resort, whereas I believe that government should be the answer of LAST resort simply because it normally tends to be an inefficient or ineffective means to an end, when compared to the free market.

And by the way, I never even implied "Acela to Strasburg." But for some reason it seems every time I end up "debating" progressives/liberals online, they end up exaggerating my examples, suggestions, or hypotheses just as badly. Would someone kindly invoke a Hitler analogy/comparison so this discussion can be closed by Godwin's Law? Or would that be Steamtown on this forum? <;-)


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 Post subject: "The TRAIN you say?"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 12:09 am 

Joined: Tue Jan 25, 2005 4:03 pm
Posts: 753
mxdata wrote:
Sorry to have to say this, but public relations and sales promotion seem to often get the back burner with both the railroads and the preservation community, and among our so-called "national" railroad historical societies the effort to promote their own activities or let the public know they exist is somewhere between very feeble and a complete joke. It is hardly surprising that the outside world knows very little of the railroad industry, the preservation community, or the railroad enthusiast hobby.


Don't be sorry. It's the truth. Everyone is so concerned with "running the trains" that they forget the business end of running the railroad is more than doing just that.

The general public for the most part doesn't care what engine was built where or why, but if they are made to care, given a context, an experience to remember, then the benefit to the operation increased ten fold (word of mouth, donations, increased ridership and attendence). The visit may center (positively or negatively) on a "train ride" but the vast majority of people who have never ridden a train will not realize the novelty unless they are made to realize how precious this commodity is. This is the stuff that built our NATION and now it's largely (by the public) and regrettably (for us) forgotten by everyone!

Train rides are thought to be old fashioned and quaint, but once upon a time it was a tried and true business that ran like the well oiled machine it once was...and nobody remembers that. Everyone who would is dead or part of the minority.

Everytime I tell my friends I take the train their reactions are a mix of surprise and interest: "The train, you say? I'd never thought of that!"

Why is this? How can this be? Railroads only permeate our lives when they cause trouble? Railroads can provide a viable solution to our transportation woes, and we've let it languish and be orphaned for thirty years?

The TRAIN, you say? What's that?

Kelly Lynch


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 6:08 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:50 pm
Posts: 96
Reading these posts in the UK I would be rather careful about using my country as an example to any other regarding "community railways".

MOST of the "preservation lines" have freehold title to their properties. They run either all steam or mostly steam services, almost completely for leisure travel. Most of these lines, especially the established ones, are in some degree of balance financially.

Two recent start ups, both in some way "community railways" show another side.

The Wensleydale Railway opened a few years ago using track remaining from a freight operation from a quarry at Redmire which had supplied British Steel on Teesside. The line leaves the East Coast main line at Northallerton to the end of track at Redmire (about 22 miles) passing through two attractive market towns of Bedale and Leyburn. The remainder of the track up the more scenic western part of the dale through Askrigg and Hawes to Garsdale (junction with the Settle & Carlisle) was lifted fourty years ago. The track formation (another 22 miles in length) would need very expensive engineering work before track could be laid.

The company leases the line from Network Rail and has to operate to their standards. An occasional freight is operated by EWS to Redmire carrying military vehicles to and from Catterick Garrison.

Because the railway cannot get access to Northallerton station services start at Leeming Bar station 5 miles west and adjacent to the A1 trunk road.

Trains are usually ex BR preserved DMUs. Some preserved ex BR diesel locos are on site but are not often used - too expensive to run.

The founders and management strongly believe in providing a community railway service. They run about four or five trains each way per day.

The sad result is that they are bleeding money. The original capital ran out last year and an appeal was mde for more. They received enough to continue operation but for how much longer?

The line is too long for the number of passengers carried. It has to be maintained to 20 tonne axleloading for the freight traffic. They are carrying too many paid staff.

North Yorkshire County Council is most reluctant to subsidize bus services. It will not support any rail services in it area.

Any chance of rebuilding the western end of the line has probably gone and the present operation will not survive without further cash infusions from supporters (if they have any left) or government (currently paying about £4bn a year for the national system) - not likely.

The other example is the Weardale Railway, about 30 miles to the north in County Durham. This is another line which uses track left over from a former freight operation from a now closed cement works at Stanhope.

A short section of the line was opened last year using mixed steam/diesel power on the back of a lot of government grant money via various agencies.

Much capital expenditure was required to rehabilitate the track, rebuild stations and build a maintenance facility. Because of the public money investment a high proportion of paid staff had to be employed.

After a few months during which the line lost money and ruined a loco firebox (low water) the line was declared bankrupt and closed.

Transferrence of freehold title to the railway from National Rail was taking a long time (this is VERY normal, all lines had the same experience back through BR times). As a result the agencies which were bankrolling the project took fright, pulled their grant money. The line promptly folded.

I will not go into the "community rail" schemes for "under used" line on the National network other than to say that some which have continuing support from past campaigns agains closure (eg Huddersfield-Penistone-Barnsley) will probably survive. Others in non tourist areas may struggle to survive.


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:24 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 9:35 am
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Location: Wilton, NY
Those UK community railways sound a lot like the old Titfield Thunderbolt movie from the early 1950s, one of the few movies ever made about railway preservation. The Daily Kos article was good. Too bad so many North American railway officials have so little interest in promoting and improving their product instead of falsely trying to make the balance sheets look good before they get their huge buyout and retire..


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:46 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3236
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
With all the noise coming up from the Catskill, the Adirondack, and the Nickel Plate, I thought this thread was worth revisiting with a bump.


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:29 pm 

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J3a-614 wrote:
With all the noise coming up from the Catskill, the Adirondack, and the Nickel Plate, I thought this thread was worth revisiting with a bump.


For sure. All one has to do is compare the situation in Swanage with that in Saranac Lake. Polar opposites.

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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 4:04 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:08 am
Posts: 60
robertjohndavis wrote:
J3a-614 wrote:
With all the noise coming up from the Catskill, the Adirondack, and the Nickel Plate, I thought this thread was worth revisiting with a bump.


For sure. All one has to do is compare the situation in Swanage with that in Saranac Lake. Polar opposites.


Even I am surprised Swanage is actually working out somewhat with its new commuter trains to Wareham. As the fellow 12 years ago noted, other attempts (largely in sparsely populated areas) failed.

Prior to this they'd worked incredibly well with encouraging people to embark at their northern terminus of Norden thanks to the lure of 'free' parking and utilising the railway as a park and ride. The council also encourages the use of the railway. There's something rather nice travelling into a seaside town made up of Victorian buildings from London behind a Merchant Navy Class.

So, looking back at the posts made back then. Not a lot seems to have really changed. Heritage lines are sort of still just bumping along in the USA with woeful marketing and business side and attitude. It's still people playing with their trains rather than pushing a solid business in order to... well. Play more trains.


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 Post subject: Re: rail preservation vital to nation
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:10 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3236
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
JDParkes wrote:
So, looking back at the posts made back then. Not a lot seems to have really changed. Heritage lines are sort of still just bumping along in the USA with woeful marketing and business side and attitude. It's still people playing with their trains rather than pushing a solid business in order to... well. Play more trains.


This reminds me of my time as an auditor with the State of West Virginia.

I spent 36 years dealing with business owners on a near-daily basis. I can personally say half the people in business have no business in business. . .and the accountants I dealt with would say I was being generous!!

Almost all the business people were good people, some were smart people, but an awful lot were just lousy business people.

This situation is anything but new. A friend of mine used to work for the National Park Service in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. He was one of the rangers there who would be dressed in period appropriate clothing and talk with the tourists and explain the history of Harpers Ferry, John Brown, and so on.

One of his stories was about how Harpers Ferry was a boom town at the time of John Brown's raid and attempted slave revolt in 1859. You had that big Federal armory there with a large workforce getting $30 per month, or $360 per year, pretty good money when, according to my friend, the average farmer in America at the time had a cash income of only $125 per year.

What this means is that Harpers Ferry was like a town outside a large military base today. You have this big payroll coming in, and everybody wants to get a part of it.

This means a highly competitive business environment. . .at that time, a lot of boot shops, pharmacies, dry goods stores, and lots and lots of saloons. According to my friend, the average life expectancy for a new business was about six months.

Jump ahead 140 or 150 years. At least until fairly recently, the Small Business Administration would tell you that the average small business startup would fail in the first year--which sounds an awful lot like a six month life expectancy. Of course, what's interesting is that the regulatory environment changed in that time--no minimum wage, no child labor laws, no income tax, no Social Security, no Medicare, no Obamacare, in short, no nuth'n in 1859--but the life expectancy didn't.

What this tells me, at least in this case, is that the real secret of a successful business can be traced to two things.

One is you--your business knowledge, your hard work, your drive, your discipline, your vision--all the things that make a business owner an entrepreneur.

The other thing is just being lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

I wonder how much of the second is part of the success of Strasburg, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, and others. As well run as they are, and have been almost from the beginning, luck certainly played an important role.


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