Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 9:01 pm

FRN 2.0

Six months in, and I’ve been doing some thinking about this blog. Expect fewer posts about railroad earnings, accidents and strikes, and other news reports: keeping track of such things isn’t nearly as interesting as finding web pages about cool train stuff but takes up a lot of time and energy, neither of which I have in abundance. So, from here on in, less of the former (unless it’s big), more of the latter.

Friday, May 4, 2007 at 7:28 am

Ottawa Central Open House

Cab ride lineup I mentioned in my entry on the Ottawa Central that there was an open house on April 28 that I was thinking of attending. Well, despite the rain, I decided at the last minute to go, and I have now posted my photos to Flickr.

It was set up like a temporary rail museum, with rolling stock, locomotives and MOW equipment set up along the yard and shop tracks — vintage equipment from the Bytown Railway Society plus O-Train and VIA Rail trainsets. An OCRR locomotive took people up and down Walkley Yard on cab rides (at a good clip, I thought); there was a long lineup for that. Some of the exhibits were familiar to me from the Kemptville show, but those from the rail industry had a definite focus on safety. (On a related note, security there was very tight; we were, after all, at the Ottawa Central’s World Headquarters.)

Friday, April 27, 2007 at 10:02 am

Subway Map Controversies

On my map blog, The Map Room, a couple of recent posts about subway maps: Madrid’s new metro map is encountering some resistance; a designer is trying to get his new map of the New York subway into circulation. In both cases, the new maps are so different from their predecessors that, even if they’re demonstrably better — which they may or may not be — their unfamiliarity is getting in the way of their adoption.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Disneyland Steam Engines, Now on Biodiesel

The Ward Kimball Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have a railroad: each has a small fleet of refurbished narrow-gauge steam locomotives running on a couple of miles of track around the park. Even though they’re steam engines, they’re also kind of diesels: the fireboxes are heated by diesel fuel rather than coal or Bunker C. Starting this year, though, the Disneyland steam engines have been running on biodiesel. (The fuel is mostly soybean oil.) The engines, which range from 50 to more than a hundred years old, seem to be working well on the new fuel. Via Boing Boing. Photo by Rich Martin; see also the Disney Railroads Flickr group.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 8:32 am

CN Strike and Accident Update

CN logo With workers in some areas on strike or locked out and others reporting for work, the union side of the CN strike seems to be in chaos, and now the Canadian labour minister announced plans to legislate an end to the strike yesterday.

The previous round of strikes had a major impact on Canada’s trade surplus (and, therefore, on Canada’s export-based economy).

Meanwhile, the Cheakamus River derailment has not gone away as a headache for CN: the B.C. government says that CN may be charged under provincial environment and federal fisheries legislation. CN’s offices were searched on Thursday.

Update, April 18: The House of Commons passed back-to-work legislation Tuesday night and could be law by the end of the week.

Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Passenger Rail as Economic Stimulus

Speaking of Dan Zukowski, he’s impressed with new Amtrak chief Alexander Kummant, particularly for his argument (briefly made here) that public investment in passenger rail promotes economic development.

Mr. Kummant’s comment signals a shift in the conversation. It’s no longer about “subsidies” for passenger trains; it’s about spurring economic development by answering demands for better transportation, revitalized downtowns and more livable cities. Investment in passenger rail is no different than building a sports stadium, hosting an Olympics or opening an airport. Government investment becomes the economic engine that drives private investment.

(Mind you, a sports stadium or the Olympics may not be the best examples to base your case on … )

Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 8:48 pm

A Ride on the California Zephyr

Dan Zukowski rode Amtrak’s California Zephyr in August 2005, during a time when Amtrak’s future was in some doubt. That three-day trip has now been distilled into a ten-minute video:

Via Dan Zukowski.

Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 8:30 pm

On Board the Record-Setting TGV

Philippe Hérissé was on board the special TGV trainset that broke the rail speed record last week, and begins a detailed account of his experience. In French. Via TrainBlog.

Previously: TGV Speed Record Video; 574.8 Kilometres Per Hour; SNCF Hypes Imminent TGV Record Attempt; Another TGV Speed Record.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 8:26 am

Rail Runner Races Fire

A controlled burn near Albuquerque got out of control; during live TV coverage of the fire (in fact, just as they were cutting away), a New Mexico Rail Runner commuter train appeared to go right past the flames. And there was much consternation, though apparently no real risk. Via Techyum.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 8:18 am

CN Workers Reject Deal, Begin Rotating Strikes

CN logo Oops. Despite their union reaching a tentative deal with CN six weeks ago, CN’s conductors and yard workers overwhelmingly rejected the deal in a ratification vote yesterday. The vote was nearly 80 per cent against. Rotating strikes are now under way, beginning in British Columbia.