Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 2:53 pm

MPR on Passenger Rail

Minnesota Public Radio on Amtrak, passenger rail in the Midwest, and the possibility of high-speed rail between Minneapolis and Chicago. Rail service between major centres — especially when they’re at a great distance from one another — compares poorly to air travel in terms of both cost and speed, but along the Empire Builder’s line the train is frequently cheaper, because plane tickets to small cities cost more. Create a high-speed corridor between Minneapolis and Chicago, and — even at 110 mph — rail suddenly becomes competitive on speed, once you factor in airport-related delays.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 9:31 am

News Roundup

Rail stocks soared yesterday when it was revealed that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is now the largest single shareholder in BNSF. Apparently, people think he knows something. But rail stocks have been hot for a while.

Former VIA Rail chairman Jean Pelletier won another court case last month, this one a wrongful-dismissal case against the federal government that fired him (previously).

A motorcyclist struck and killed by an Amtrak San Joaquin in Richmond, California on Sunday was stunt-riding, says a UP spokesman: “Sadly, there were two people riding on their dirt bikes, I believe jumping over the railroad tracks. … Unfortunately, as a result, one of them was struck by an Amtrak train.”

That same day, an 18-year-old on an ATV was killed by a VIA Rail train near Hinton, Alberta; the accident was at a private crossing and it’s possible that he was trying to beat the train.

Despite on-time issues, Amtrak ridership on the Chicago-Carbondale corridor is up 68 per cent (previously).

Amtrak has cellphone-free “Quiet Cars” — why can’t commuter trains?

Vietnam is planning a high-speed rail line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City: the 1,630-km, $32.6-billion line would cut travel time from 30 hours to nine.

Faced with a Chinese rail line to Tibet that may be extended to the border with Nepal, India is exploring options for a rail line to Nepal as well.

Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Ottawa Central Railway

OCR #1828. Photo by B. F. Goodman The railroad nearest to my location is the Ottawa Central Railway, a short line that mainly runs along the former CN Beachburg subdivision; it also has trackage rights on VIA Rail’s Ottawa-area track. Like most short lines, I imagine, it doesn’t have a web site of its own, but it does have some presence on the web. Its roster — chop-nosed MLW RS-18s, plus a single C-424, generally former CP engines — is on TrainWeb. And, curiously, recent issues of The Spareboard, the company newsletter, are available as PDF files on this site. There’s also an open house on the 28th that I’m thinking of going to. (Photo: B. F. Goodman.)

Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 8:40 pm

Toronto Railway Historical Association

The Toronto Railway Historical Association has a new web site; they’re working on plans for a major railway museum — the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre — in downtown Toronto, and the site has the details. Via cpsig.

Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 12:10 pm

The Berlin-Irkutsk Express

A Russian rail operator is floating the idea of a direct train between Berlin and Irkutsk, which, at something like five days and 6,800 kilometres, would be the longest single rail journey to originate in western Europe; the current route terminates at Novosibirsk, and is only four days and 5,000 kilometres. Gadling sees the advantages: besides direct access to the Lake Baikal region, you can catch a train to China from there. Just as long as I don’t have to travel by Platzkart.

Thursday, April 5, 2007 at 10:22 am

Railfanning in New Brunswick

Harvey Lake Steve Boyko has put together a list of the top ten railfanning spots in New Brunswick. I travel to New Brunswick from time to time so I should make a note of this: some of the locations look interesting.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Empire Express 2.0

Empire Express (screenshot) There’s a lot of layout planning software out there, but almost none of that is for the Mac. As a Mac user, this is naturally of some concern to me, but I was never without at least one option. I’ve been using Empire Express for my layout planning. It has its limitations, but it’s reasonably easy to use — and it’s certainly easier than using actual CAD software. By e-mail I learn that Empire Express has now reached version 2.0: it’s now a Universal Binary and has a much improved user interface (the old version’s UI seemed more than a bit dated, which makes sense: it was backwards compatible as far back as Mac OS 8.6). Feature list here. $35 new, $20 upgrade.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 at 8:33 am

TGV Speed Record Video

A video of yesterday’s TGV speed record:

Via Marcel.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 11:46 am

574.8 Kilometres Per Hour

The official TGV speed record attempt took place today, the Associated Press reports (Washington Post). Via Marcel.

574.8 km/h. Or, if you prefer, 357.2 mph. Or, if you prefer, 160 m/s.

Roaring like a jet plane, with sparks flying overhead and kicking up a long trail of dust, the black-and-chrome V150 with three double-decker cars surpassed the record of 320.2 mph set in 1990 by another French train.

It fell short, however, of beating the ultimate record set by Japan’s magnetically levitated train, which hit 361 mph in 2003.

Comparing a train to a friggin’ maglev isn’t fair; you might as well throw a 737 into the mix.

Previously: SNCF Hypes Imminent TGV Record Attempt; Another TGV Speed Record.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 10:39 am

ONR Derailment Spills Sulphuric Acid

Ontario Northland logo Two dozen cars of a 33-car Ontario Northland train derailed on Friday near Engelhart, Ontario, a small community in the Timiskaming region of northern Ontario. Several of the cars contained sulphuric acid: one spilled its contents — about 100 tons’ worth — into the Blanche River; another four were leaking. The spill was contained on Sunday but people were being told not to drink the river water; the line is expected to be closed until Thursday. Meanwhile, local residents worry about the long term impact — dead fish are already beginning to turn up.