News Briefs - January, 2003

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Flint crash damages freeway overpass over CSX...

 

(TV 5) Flint---A propane tanker truck has crashed and exploded near downtown Flint early Thursday morning. Flint police tell TV 5 the truck went off of I-69 near the Dort Highway exit ramp and fell onto CSX railroad tracks shortly after midnight. Witnesses say the explosion created a huge fireball which lit up the nighttime sky. The crash and explosion also brought down power lines in the area, including a 46,000 volt line which fell onto I-69.  Power is temporarily out in that area for at least 1,100 Consumers Energy customers, according to utility spokesman Kevin Keane. A crash investigator from the Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Division has been summoned to the scene. Structural engineers from the Michigan Department of Transportation are also being called in to investigate the structural integrity of the I-69 bridge over the railroad tracks. Police say they are concerned the explosion and resulting fire caused steel supports to melt and buckle, making the bridge unsafe for traffic. The truck driver is unaccounted for and is believed to have died in the crash.  From Dave Williamson, BWC.

 

News from MSTRP's- Steam Railroading Institute...

The Steam Railroading Institute has purchased 3.5 acres from the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railway, Co.
at the roundhouse area of the former Ann Arbor Railroad's steam service facility in Owosso.  This will be the future site of a NEW steam service facility and museum.  Interactive steam era railroading programs will be established there.  Four steam locomotives are planned to be housed there with 3 operating by the end of 2003.

The PM 1225 will be reunited with a former PM turntable relocated from New Buffalo.  PM 1225 was turned on this table at Pere Marquette's service facility there.  Work has begun on the turntable restoration with pit construction planned for this summer.

A major "O" scale model collection with over 2000 pieces of rolling stock and over 2000 pieces of structure is being looked at to join the Steam Railroading Institute's tools for education.  This collection has been gathered and stored in a basement for over 60 years with some pieces pre 1900..  Much of it Lionel, much of it in original boxes and much of it never operated.  This is accompanied with a collection of well over 2000 documents, photographs and artifacts from Michigan railroading dating back to the mid 1800's.  Most any Michigan railroad that ever existed has representation in the collection.  This private collection has been seen by very few people.  The collector feels it is time to display it and has concluded that the Steam Railroading Institute's development plans fit his expectations for long term public display.  A MAJOR layout is now being designed of the GT main from Muskegon to Durand depicting the steam era.

Lionel has introduced an "O" scale model of PM 1225 in its 2003 catalog.  The Steam Railroading Institute worked with their engineering and design department to develop the detail of the model.  PM 1225's long time engineer Joe Sigafoose passed away last year.  Lionel agreed to honor him by designing the model's engineer wearing Joe's signature green cap with white dots.  The model is scheduled to be available in April (2003).

PM 1225 is scheduled to participate in the B&O Musuem's Fair of the Iron Horse 175.  It and crew will depart Owosso on or about June 22 with return on or about July 11, 2003.  Plans are coming together and PM 1225 is under intense inspections.  CSX and the B&O Museum are close to an agreement to allow PM 1225 to run in its main line (mostly the old B&O, AnnPere to Fostoria to Baltimore).  An official announcement of the agreement is due by mid February.  CSX maintenance officials have contacted the PM 1225 mechanical dept. and are already part of the inspection process.

The Steam Railroading Institute has contracted with Warner Brother's for technical advise in the making
of a major motion picture the "Polar Express".  Steven Speilberg and Tom Hanks will produce with Robert Zemeckis directing this state-of-the-art Computer Graphic Image movie of a boy and his magical steam train ride on Christmas Eve to see Santa Claus at the North Pole.  Tom Hanks will be the conductor and play other roles.  PM 1225 is being used as the image for the locomotive and will play a major role in the production.  This CGI rendering process has never been attempted for an entire motion picture.  (Most recently the process was used to generate the character "Golum" in the Lord of the Rings- Two Towers.)  Early estimates are that this production cost will exceed a record $150,000,000 making it the most expensive motion picture ever produced.  A release date is targeted at December 2004.  Due to the complexity of the new imaging process it could delay until Dec. 2005.  Once released, Michigan can boast to have the "real" Polar Express.  From Dennis Braid- Executive Director, 
mstrp@shianet.org.

 

Cleveland Cliffs makes 2003 production estimates...

 

Cliffs released their 2002 financial report today.  Of interest is the anticipated production quantities for 2003 (full production for most mines):

Iron ore pellet sales in the fourth quarter of 2002 were 4.5 million tons compared to 2.7 million tons in 2001. Full year sales were 14.7 million tons in 2002 versus 8.4 million tons in 2001. A significant portion of the increase in both periods was the sale of pellets to International Steel Group and Algoma Steel under new sales agreements.

Empire Mine Asset Impairment Charge.  The Company periodically conducts a formal evaluation of its iron ore reserves at all mining locations, which includes the effect of changes in the cost of producing pellets from the respective ore reserves. As previously announced, we completed various mine planning studies at Empire in the fourth quarter which indicated that the mine's economic ore reserves were reduced from 116 million tons of pellets at December 31, 2001 to 63 million tons at the end of 2002.

Officials noted, "...this transaction could lead to the combination of the operations of the Empire and Tilden Mines before the end of 2003. The combination, which has been under study for some time, would be expected to create a more efficient, cost competitive mining operation."

Following is a summary of expected production by mine for 2003:
 

Mine                2002       2003 Estimate  (in millions of tons)

Empire               3.6        6.2         
Tilden                 7.9        8.0         
Hibbing               7.7        8.3         
Northshore          4.2        4.8         
Wabush              4.5        5.3         
Total                 27.9       32.6        

SOURCE Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.  Submitted by Dave Schauer, OreList.

 

Central Michigan Sells the 9210...

 

Patrick on the Michigan Shortline board reports that Central Michigan has sold the 9210 locomotive to a bean elevator somewhere in Indiana.  The unit is still in Wenona Yard at North Bay City with its stacks capped.  He is not sure when it will depart.  Sister engine 9209 is on lease to the Huron & Eastern Railroad for the grain shipping season, which is substantial this year.

 

CSX derailment in Wayne...

 

Anthony J. Rzucidlo reports that a CSX train derailed in Wayne at the Van Born Road crossing.  Police were called and the roadway was to be cleared by 5:00 p.m. today (1/24).  No other information available at this time.  Further information from AP:

 

WAYNE, Mich. -- A van hit a CSX Transportation freight train before dawn Friday, killing one person, injuring another and derailing several empty propane tank cars, authorities say.  The accident happened about 3 a.m. on the Wayne-Romulus city line, about 15 miles west of Detroit.  Both victims were in the van.  The train had two engines, 31 loaded and 34 empty cars, said CSX spokesman David Hall. He told radio station WWJ-AM that seven cars derailed and five overturned.  No one aboard the train was hurt, no leaks were reported, and no one had been evacuated, Hall said.  He said he did not immediately know what the train was carrying, but firefighters were concerned about flammable material in a rail car next to the cars that jumped the track, the station said.  Several roads and businesses in the area were closed Friday morning as crews worked to clear the derailed cars.

 

NS derailment on main east of Toledo...

 

A derailment last evening has impacted Norfolk Southern's mainline operations at Rocky Ridge, OH (Rocky Ridge, OH is on the Norfolk Southern mainline east of Toledo, OH). Both mainlines at this location are out of service.   Tracks have been cleared and efforts are currently underway to repair tracks as quickly as possible. Operations are expected to be restored to one of the mainlines 9:00 AM Monday, January 20, 2003.  Customers with traffic normally moving through this area should expect up to a 24-hour delay.  From Norfolk Southern at 8:23 a.m., January 20th.

 

Amtrak resurrects baggage cars...

 

Amtrak appears to have resurrected checked baggage service on select trains between Chicago and Detroit. Recently, Baggage car 1736 has been seen on the Wolverine. Yesterday, the westbound Twilight Limited hosted a most unsuaul consist, running through Dearborn. Leading the train was P42 Genisis unit #31. Following were three Superliner cars. On the Rear was Baggage 1802. This car is lettered for "The Vermonter." It was also recently seen on the Lake Shore Limited in Elkhart, IN. We haven't had Superliners on this line for 3 or 4 years now.  From Nathan Nietering.

 

Amtrak gets $1.2 billion restored in U. S. Senate...

 

I am happy to report that the U.S. Senate has just voted to pass an amendment to a $390 billion spending bill that would restore $1.2 billion for Amtrak.  I quote from the Associated Press:  "In one crack in their solidarity with Bush, Republicans joined Democrats in a voice vote to push subsidies for Amtrak to $1.2 billion, $374 million more than the bill had included. "  According to long time Friends of Amtrak supporter and National Corridors Initiative Editor Leo King, "Even Amtrak foe Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reluctantly agreed to the measure."  From Craig O'Connell.

 

Amtrak funding...

 

The Republican omnibus FY03 appropriations bill is on the Senate floor today.  Associated Press confirms that it includes $763 million for Amtrak, about the same as the "shutdown" level as the House committee approved last year.  Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, plans to offer an amendment to restore Amtrak funding to the $1.2 billion which David Gunn says is the minimum Amtrak needs, and which the full committee approved last year.  The Amtrak amendment is expected to be the third amendment considered and could come up some time this afternoon or this evening. Starting at noon, the Senate is expected to consider a Byrd (D-WV) amendment restoring $5 billion to homeland security funding, and then move to an amendment that would restore education funding.  From Ross B. Capon, NARP Executive Director.

CN breaks coupler...

 

CN 2428 and train experienced some troubles tonight  (1/15/03) as a coupler broke away during its south bound pull on the Mt. Clemens Sub around milepost 40. CN train 145, the Triple Crown Road Railer was held up at Port Huron due to the problem. There was talk of it being routed through Flint and the Holly Sub to get to Milwaukee Jct. The Port Huron yard switcher, the 504, was dispatched to pull the troubled CN train and broken equipment from its better half.  CN 6401 was chosen for this task and given a track warrant to work between Tappen and MP 40. The 6401 pulled the remainder of the train and bad car back north though Smiths Creek.  It then pushed the bad car into the siding at Smiths Creek to clear the line.  As of this posting I do not know if the rest of the train was hooked up and returned to its trip south. This was all heard on the CN/GTW frequencies this evening from about 930 PM.  From Dan Meinhard.  Dan later adds:  CN 6401 just returned to the Port Huron Yard, so it must have re-attached the good part of the train and received clearance back in.

 

Soo Locks set to close on the 15th...

 

The river channel locks at Sault Ste. Marie will be closing on January 15th due to cold weather and icing.  They will remain closed for about two months.  There has been a flurry of railroad activity in the Marquette and various Minnesota Iron Ranges to get boats loaded and beyond the Soo by the closing date.  Most boats to be loaded are at their docks and finishing the task.  Once shipping finishes, crews will then begin their winter maintenance work on the various ore docks and track.  Taconite pellets continue to be shipped through the all-weather port in Escanaba, and all-rail ore moves will still be made to Sault Ste. Marie Ontario and other steel mills around Chicago and in Ohio.

 

Changes in area railroad police departments...

 

Antrhony Rzucidlo reports that Conrail's police department in Metro Detroit was closed in the 4th quarter of 2002.  Officers that were still active with Conrail were split-up between the CSX and NS Railroad Police Departments.  Anthony is unsure about the fate of other CSAA divisions near New Jersey.  Also, the CN/IC police officers have been pulled from Flat Rock Yard.  If needed, officers/special agents work the entire area from Ferndale.

 

Former AA Carferry Viking to move...

 

According to U.S. Coast Guard Station Erie, an ice advisory has been issued for the Erie, PA. harbor for two tugs arriving on Friday to tow the Viking to Menominee, Michigan for conversion to a barge. A representative with the Coast Guard confirmed the move Thursday evening, but the exact time frame for a move was not known. This type of move can easily be delayed by weather. Lake effect snow and strong winds are forecast for the weekend. The Viking is a former Ann Arbor Railroad car ferry.  (1/10/03)
 

New ore shut for Marquette dock...

 

Signs of the end of the season are nearing as I saw the LS&I Hill job pass by Forestville about 7:30pm  with something never seen by me... a flatcar with a new ore dock chute going to Marquette.  I hope to catch some of these in daylight as I never caught the flatcars running before, or the gons for that matter with the old dock scrap.  Dockwork starting soon, as the 15th is soon approaching.  From Tom Carello.
 

Ore cars derail at Esky...

 

4 hoppers off the Minorca derailed in the ore yard at Escanaba last night, about midnight. They were coming out of the dump-house onto 7-track. Apparently one car was half on it's side. This doesn't tie up the yard, though.  SORE 2 came in southbound about 12:30 with WC 7520 & another SD45, 108 loads.  From OreRail list.

Tilden production record set, Still no operation plan for Empire in 2003...

ISHPEMING - Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. still has no operating plan for 2003 in place at the Empire Mine in Palmer although officials say they 're pleased with production levels on the Marquette Iron Range as a whole.  The Tilden Mine in National Mine set a level in 2002 of more than 7.85 million tons, only the fourth time the annual production level has topped 7 million tons during its 28 years of operation, according to Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc.,  manager and part-owner of both the Tilden and Empire mines.  The previous record was set in 1980 when the mine produced 7.37 million tons.

The Empire Mine's annual production level was slightly more than 3.6 million tons in 2002, said Dale Hemmila, CCI spokesman. That figure is less than previous years.  Hemmila said CCI is satisfied with the Empire Mine's production levels, "considering the Empire was shut down during the first quarter of the year."

The Empire's full-capacity level was redefined from 8 million tons to 6 million tons a year after the mine reopened in April. It had been idled since late November 2001 when LTV Corporation, a 25 percent owner of the mine, asked a federal bankruptcy court for permission to prepare its steel operations for sale.  Meanwhile, CCI continues to remain optimistic that an operating plan for the current year will soon be in place at the Empire, Hemmila said.  "Cliffs and Ispat Inland, Inc. have been working very hard together for the past several months to come up with an operating plan for this year," said Hemmila of the mine's remaining partners. "The negotiation process is complex, but we hope to have an operating plan soon."  From the Marquette Journal.

 

D&M Historical Society Model Railroad Flea Market set for March 23...

 

The D&M Railway Historical Society is holding its first Model Railroad Flea Market on March 23, 2002 at the Freeland Convention Center, between Saginaw and Midland.  The Center is located at 8390 Midland Road (M-47) at Carter Road in Freeland.  Tables are $18 or $20 if reserved at the door.  For more information, go to the D&M Railway Historical Society web page.

 


 

 

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