Freight and General New England RR News

Semass

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Not sure which thread to drop this in. I'll put it here:

Many possible implications for MBTA and general rail use in Mass. and region. Numerous other articles on Google.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Not sure which thread to drop this in. I'll put it here:

Many possible implications for MBTA and general rail use in Mass. and region. Numerous other articles on Google.
That herd of elephants you hear is every major Northeast RR not named CSX and dozens of hedge funds readying their offers. This will be crazy to watch.
 

George_Apley

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Giving this a thread. We don't have a general thread for non-passenger RR ops and business sales.
 

Semass

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Giving this a thread. We don't have a general thread for non-passenger RR ops and business sales.
Thanks George. This will be very interesting to see how it plays out. A lot of the RUR concepts depend on Pan Am rails and we have discussed the company at length. Usually about maintenance, dispatching, freight clearance, and their downright difficulty to work with. Hopefully the next owner will be an improvement.

I can imagine a scenario where it is purchased and some elements immediately flipped to MassDOT to help finance the deal.
 

Tallguy

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Thanks George. This will be very interesting to see how it plays out. A lot of the RUR concepts depend on Pan Am rails and we have discussed the company at length. Usually about maintenance, dispatching, freight clearance, and their downright difficulty to work with. Hopefully the next owner will be an improvement.

I can imagine a scenario where it is purchased and some elements immediately flipped to MassDOT to help finance the deal.
Whats left that we want? (Not trying to be a smartass). Does NS have a buyout or 1st refusal through PAS?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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First off...there's "two" Pan Ams to make this clear-as-mud. "Pan Am Southern" is the 50/50 ownership joint venture between Pan Am Railways and Norfolk Southern, Class I national freight behemoth and CSX arch-rival in the northeastern region. PAS consists of the Fitchburg Main Line from Mechanicville, NY to the Ayer Autoport. And the rest of it is regular-old "Pan Am Railways", whose sole shareholder is Timothy Mellon. Meaning, as a 100% private entity it is entirely Mellon's decision who buys that part of the system...no outside influences whatsoever except for creditors (who are rumored to be few-to-nonexistent). That's going to make this particularly wild speculation, because Mellon...uh...marches to his own shall-we-say "unique" personal interpretation of Randoid theory in a de facto business dictatorship.

Pan Am Southern (the joint-venture) holdings include:
  • Hill Yard intermodal facility due south of Ayer Station/Ayer Jct. at the northernmost tip of the Worcester Main Line...the main competitor to CSX Worcester intermodal yard. Other major yards at East Fitchburg (general freight), East Deerfield (sorting/classification), and Mechanicville, NY (intermodal). Minor yards at Gardner and North Adams.
  • North-south trackage rights from New Haven, CT to White River Jct., VT on the Springfield Line and Conn River Line. Complicated situation as they have exclusive rights on the Conn River in MA, 'split' rights with NECR on the Conn River in VT, and overhead-only rights on the Springfield Line (primarily for access to their CT branchlines) with very narrow-defined and contractually booby-trapped limitations on what intermodal they're allowed to do at CSX Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven.
  • Connecticut territory: Highland Line Berlin-Waterbury + MNRR Waterbury Branch, Waterbury to Derby Jct., anchored by semi-major Plainville, CT Yard. Accessed off Springfield Line via major East Deerfield-Plainville feeder train (symbol: EDPL/PLED). Includes following industrial spurs:
    • Canal Industrial Track (active, Plainville-Southington)
    • New Departure Industrial Track (active, Plymouth-Bristol)
    • Watertown Industrial Track (active, Waterbury-Watertown)
    • Waterbury Yard (mostly disused) + Waterbury Industrial Track (inactive)
  • Misc. MA flotsam:
    • Deerfield Branch, connecting huge East Deerfield Yard with Conn River Line southbound.
    • Trackage rights on MassDOT Adams Branch, North Adams-Downtown Adams.
    • Trackage rights on inner Fitchburg Line to I-495 and no further (i.e. outbound of Littleton Station), for serving planned new customers at the ex- Ocean Spray plant in Littleton and a nearby industrial park.
    • Trackage rights on T-owned Greenville Branch due north of Ayer Station to 2 customers by Devens Airport.
    • Ownership of half-mile long Heywood Industrial Track in downtown Gardner, serving 1 customer.
The rest of the system is the full private-owned Pan Am Railways, inclusive of the mainline from Ayer to Portland to Bangor, all other MBTA trackage rights, and former branchline holdings of the Boston & Maine (acquired 1983) and Maine Central (acquired 1980) RR's.
  • Mainline segments:
    • Worcester Main Line, Barbers Jct. Worcester to Ayer Station (mostly self-owned; unsignalized). Complex situation. PAS owns Hill Yard, Ayer Jct., and some of the tail tracks stretching south of Devens as part of the intermodal yard co-run with Norfolk Southern. P&W owns remaining distance inside Worcester from Barbers Jct. to Worcester Union Station as part of its Gardner Branch, with PAR having rights into P&W's yard. CSX has overhead rights all the way from Worcester to Ayer. PAR has squatter's rights on Barbers Yard (closed early-90's) alongside I-290 on the P&W owned segment. MassDOT is confirmed to have agreed-to-terms to buying the Worcester Main from them, and that transaction will probably be placed on hurry-up now to complete before the sale. MassDOT is not buying the PAS-owned segment at the north tip or the P&W leg in Worcester.
    • Trackage rights over T + PAS on MBTA Fitchburg Line between the Worcester Main and Willows Jct. MBTA-owned, PAS dispatched.
    • Stony Brook Branch, Willows Jct. to North Chelmsford Jct. (self-owned; signalized). Excluding the Willows tip right by the Autoport yard, which goes under PAS ownership.
    • NH Mainline, North Chelmsford Jct. to Lowell Station (MBTA-owned; signalized). Any Lowell Line extension is going to share traffic with this segment.
    • Lowell Branch, Lowell Station to Lowell Jct., Andover (self-owned; signalized).
    • MBTA Western Route, Lowell Jct. to Plaistow Interlocking (end of double-track, end of MBTA trackage rights). MBTA-owned, PAR dispatched.
    • PAR Western Route, Plaistow to Riby Yard, South Portland (self-owned, signalized). Shared w/ Downeaster.
    • Maine Central Mainline, Rigby Yard to Royal Jct., Yarmouth (split w/ Downeaster/Brunswick Branch; self-owned, signalized).
    • Maine Central "Back Road" Mainline, Yarmouth to Waterville (self-owned, signalized).
    • Maine Central Mainline, Waterville to Northern Maine Jct., Bangor (self-owned, unsignalized).
  • Major yards at: Lawrence, MA; Rigby/South Portland, ME & Portland (intermodal); Lewiston, ME (intermodal); Waterville; Bangor. Minor yards at: Lowell; Nashua, NH; Dover, NH; Somerville, Billerica, Portsmouth. "Parking spot" unstaffed yards at Salem; Manchester, NH.
  • Major MA branchlines (lots more in NH/ME):
    • NH Mainline north, North Chelmsford Jct. to Concord, NH (MBTA trackage rights in MA, self-owned NH; signalized to Nashua Yard)
    • NH Mainline south, Lowell to Somerville (MBTA trackage rights). Incl. Billerica Yard. "BO-1" is the primary Somerville-Everett-Peabody daily, sent out of Lowell...sometimes augmented by a "BO-2" when they have extra work to do. A separate daily overnighter handles on-line customers as far south as Montvale/Winchester.
    • Andover-Wilmington (MBTA trackage rights, incl. Western Route south of Lowell Jct. + Wildcat Branch). Primary route for Dover-Boston ("DOBO/BODO") sand trains to Boston Sand & Gravel + any local southbounds staged out of Lawrence instead of Lowell.
    • Eastern Route, Somerville-Beverly (MBTA Trackage rights...only crosses Beverly Draw in extremely rare occasions to change directions). Includes Everett Terminal access, (mostly derelict) Castle Hill Yard, Salem.
  • Minor MA holdings:
    • MBTA Peabody Branch trackage rights (Salem Jct. to east of Peabody Sq.). Includes rights to North Street Yard abutting Salem Station.
    • South Peabody Branch (self-owned), split @ Peabody Sq. to end-of-track @ 1st Ave. Out-of-service from past Allens Ln. to 1st Ave. Focal point of 3-day-a-week Peabody extension of BO-1, serving large Rousselot Gelatin plant @ Allens Ln. OOS segment unlikely to be abandoned, because collecting rent from power lines. Partial reactivation possible to Summit St. grade crossing for more Rousselot Storage, fewer 'fetch' moves to North St. Yard per trip (drives Peabody officials crazy how many times they cross the Square in a given afternoon).
    • East Boston Branch (MBTA-owned), split from Eastern Route @ MA 145, Revere to end-of-track past Boston City Line. Out-of-service; future Massport reactivation candidate.
    • Mystic Wharf Branch (Massport owned), Somerville (split underneath I-93 decks near Boston Engine Terminal) to Charlestown Autoport. Out-of-service; future Massport-planned reactivation.
    • Bedford Branch (MBTA-owned). Access point to Billerica Yard, from Lowell Line south of N. Billerica Station. Used regularly.
    • Medford Industrial Track (self-owned), Medford Jct. past Wellington for 1/2 mile to cold storage warehouse. Out-of-service. Likely abandonment candidate (poss. expedited pre-sale???)
    • Woburn Loop Industrial Track (self-owned). Out-of-service, with new major customer sign-on going through permitting process to open big transload warehouse. Likely to see nightly service.
    • Wilmington Industrial Track (private LLC-owned). Out-of-service. Come-and-go prospects with nothing current, but easy pickins' for new customer sitings.
    • Lawrence Industrial Track (self-owned). Serves couple customers via junction near Lawrence Yard.
    • Lots more in NH/ME out-of-scope.
  • Abandoned holdings:
    • Lowell Industrial Track, Downtown Lowell to Billerica. Bruce Freeman Trail north extension from shopping center trailhead to Downtown Lowell. PAR holding out for a king's ransom / not taking negotiations seriously...so stalled in frustration for years. This probably now has to be resolved before company sale.
    • Heywood Industrial Track, Gardner (*disputed* PAS co-ownership). Segment north of current end-of-track abandoned decades ago that they "forgot" to file paperwork with the feds. Abandonment belatedly processed couple years ago. Probably will be chomping at bit to dump on Town for rail trail extension before sale.
 

Semass

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Whats left that we want? (Not trying to be a smartass).
As seen above, the answer is "a lot". MassDOT has been making a lot of deals to secure it's own destiny and have ownership over the tracks it runs on. North side has consistently been behind south side for a lot of improvements. It could make a lot of sense for MassDOT to buy the infrastructure to make future updates for RUR. It could still provide trackage rights for a new owner. By selling some elements to MassDOT, a new owner could get some quick cash as well as offloading a lot of needed capital improvements.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Now...the *only* direct entanglements that passenger service has with PAR on rights or ownership are:
  • Pan Am Southern self-ownership of Wachusett Extension. Fitchburg Station to Westminster Layover is the only non-Amtrak "foreign" territory the T uses on any schedule whatsoever. They have lifetime irrevocable trackage rights, but the ownership under their feet is still 50/50 PAR + NS. Pricey track, but it was always expected that this would be settled up at some point. No great rush, but sale may change that.
  • Pan Am Southern dispatch: Freight Main overlap on Fitchburg Line, Willows Jct. in Ayer to Wachusett/Westminster. Major strategic hold; this will transact with PAS.
  • Pan Am Southern dispatch: Conn River Line, Springfield-Northfield. Major strategic hold; will transact with PAS.
  • Pan Am Railways dispatch: Freight Main overlap of Western Route, Lowell Jct. in Andover to state line/Plaistow Interlocking (end of double-track in NH / end of MBTA rights). Major strategic hold; will transact with PAR side of system.
    • Freight main dispatch of Lowell-Nashua on NH Main. Only impacts T if Lowell Line extended, but major strategic hold because of Chelmsford-Lowell freight main overlap; will transact with PAR side of system.
  • Pan Am Railways dispatch: Lowell Line, North Billerica to Lowell Station. Old residue to be sunset. Held by PAR for access to the long-gone Bleachery Yard complex near 495 that are abandoned and were transacted to MassDOT ownership in the GLX land swaps. Interlocking work planned to re-tie all track through Lowell Station under T dispatch. Hasn't been under any rush, but probably now has to be rushed because of 12/31 FRA deadline for installing cab signals on the Lowell Line.
  • Worcester Main ownership. Lifetime irrevocable trackage rights for non-revenue moves were given to the T in the GLX land swaps. MassDOT had long planned to buy out the PAR ownership to control the head-butting between PAR and co-user CSX over the horrible maint standards on the line, give MA Water Resources Authority more direct control where ROW abuts Wachusett Reservoir. All reports are they agreed to terms last year and are just waiting for an opportune budget opening to transact. That may need to be sped up now. 98% a freight-enhancement thing...passenger coattails minimal except for alt-routed Grand Junction equipment swaps someday being able to take way less than 5 hours.

The main indirect entanglement is simply PAR's brand of "slop ops", where their own schedule adherence is so intrinsically poor from under-staffing, lazy yard dispatching, etc. that they keep running out of crew hours and have to park in inconvenient places (like Somerville, or on a Downeaster passing siding). Nothing anyone can do about this, except get their rooting interests straight for the would-be buyers. *Most* RR's place high value on running on-time, so this shouldn't be a problem in the next regime. As for Somerville, anybody caring about new business has tons of opportunity to tap on the Lowell Line, at Everett, and with Massport such potential signees will be a big driver of sales price. So running on-time is not necessarily a zero-out of inside-128 storage needs. Rather, it means that building extra yard space in Everett or in a staging spot like Montvale (which is a three-quarters abandoned real freight yard) can increase business while keeping Somerville clean. Those are investments the state would consider doing under new ownership...but would not under the same PAR ownership because the new parking spots would just be over-temptation to be lazier (a genuine issue that's already bitten NNEPRA when their paid-for Downeaster passing tracks have been immediately misappropriated as parking lots for canned freight trains).

The T, thanks to the GLX land swaps, has lifetime irrevocable trackage rights to Concord, Plaistow, Wachusett, and Worcester-Ayer. MassDOT and Amtrak have free reign on the Conn River Line for whoever future-operates Knowledge Corridor service. MassDOT holds the Adams Branch now for Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's excursion service. And none of the self-owned industrial tracks have any passenger potential. The only potential new rights they might seek are on the Stony Brook Branch Ayer-Chelmsford and Lowell Branch Lowell-Andover as rainy-day backup routes for equipment moves, but those are not consequential passenger prospects and aren't going anywhere because they're big cogs on the Freight Main. The longstanding ban on cab signals across the northside has also mercifully fallen at last, with rush-installs underway now for Lowell and the other 3-1/2 lines scheduled for 2022 completion under an FRA delay waiver. That is a major relief, because northside & southside will finally at long last be following the same ops rulebook (ditto the Conn River if/when CR comes there).


For state investment who buys has a lot to say on whether double-stack clearances Ayer-Portland gets fast-tracked vs. (currently) slow-walked. MassDOT has way more self-owned territory and overhead bridges to help with than NHDOT or MEDOT, so that's a consequential CIP funding item for item. But the profit margins for the Portland intermodal lane are sky-high, so it'll be well worth it. That one will pay itself back in new revenues very quickly, much like the CSX investment. Other than Massport planning for the tracks in Eastie and Charlestown there's not much else to upgrade in Greater Boston. Maybe just finishing out some Lowell Line bridge replacements so it's uprated for industry-standard 286,000 lb. railcars (IIRC Winchester Ctr. Viaduct is the biggest blocker, and that's at least scheduled for full rebuild). Another might be trackbed-undercutting the Eastern Route under the Sullivan Sq. Cambridge St., Maffa Way, Mystic Ave. trio of bridges (one or more overdue for replacement anyway) so Everett Terminal can take Plate F/17 ft. tall cars where today it's just a hair short of that capacity. That might also affect electrification provisions for the Eastern, as they're going to have to do some undercutting of those bridges anyway to preserve the current Plate E freight clearances to the Everett turnout...but extremely minor project overall that doesn't rate as any inflection point for the TransitMatters plan.
 

WormtownNative

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I'm almost afraid to think how much trackage will be abandoned post-sale due to horrible conditions/lack of customers. Pan-Am has done a wonderful job of losing customers just by existing, so it will be interesting to see who buys what and if any new customers come online once they realize they're no longer dealing with a Pan-Am Failways.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I'm almost afraid to think how much trackage will be abandoned post-sale due to horrible conditions/lack of customers. Pan-Am has done a wonderful job of losing customers just by existing, so it will be interesting to see who buys what and if any new customers come online once they realize they're no longer dealing with a Pan-Am Failways.
There's basically nothing left to abandon. Medford Industrial Track is it in MA, and the get off the fuckin' pot sale decision on the Lowell Industrial so we can finally extend the Bruce Trail into the city. In Maine the long out-of-service Madison Branch (paper mill closure) needs to get pruned and they have got nothing remaining on the Bucksport Branch (another big paper mill closure) and Lewiston Industrial Track, but it's too soon since last movement to file for anything on those last two. That's it. Everything else they've got for branches (Portsmouth, Nashua-Milford, Saco, Westbrook, Rumford) is relatively business-healthy. Everything else has already been mass-abandoned into the minimum-most operating RR you could leave behind. That damage was already long-ago done, and we have nothing more to fear.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Here's PAR's system map (biiiiig graphic...zoom in). Lines in red are part of the Pan Am Southern partnership, lines in blue part of 'solo' PAR. Dashed lines are where they have trackage rights (e.g. MBTA territory). There's Boston and Portland map insets not shown here that cover detail too microscopic for the main map.



Few slightly out-of-date or erroneous things:
  • PAS: Conn River Line (Springfield-Northfield) and Adams Branch are now MassDOT-owned, so need to be changed to dashed lines.
  • PAS: Mechanicville-Mohawk is ownership-shared with Canadian Pacific (CP)...should be dashed-line.
  • PAR: Barbers to Worcester is P&W ownership...should be dashed-line.
  • PAR: Brunswick-Lisbon is MEDOT-owned...should be dashed-line.
  • PAR: Concord, NH to Penacook, NH is now abandoned (disused since '92) and about to close sale to NHDOT for landbanking. Delete from map.
  • Some changes in the connecting RR's: East-west "MMA" in northern Maine + Vermont is now 800 lb. Class I gorilla Canadian Pacific (CP).
  • The northern Maine "MMA" lines in light blue are now run by J.D. Irving Lines.
Explainers:
  • PAS: The dark grey line from Binghamton, NY to Mohawk is how Norfolk Southern access New England from its main hub in Harrisburg, PA.
  • That isolated line in blue from St. Johnsbury to Gilman, VT is an out-of-service chunk of the former Maine Central Mountain Division to Portland (which continues OOS and not shown on the map to Whitefield, NH). PAR sub-leased it to a shortline that went belly-up in '99, and the shortline's lease expired in 2019. They haven't operated that by themselves since the early-80's, and now that their sublettor is out of the picture it just needs to transact to VTrans (state really wants it bad for taking new service bids). That probably now has to transact before the sale.
  • The light-blue stuff in northernmost Maine is run by J.D. Irving, Inc. under the "New Brunswick Southern RR" moniker and includes some haulage contracts from paper mills delivered exclusively to PAR in Mattawamkeag, ME. Totally different carrier with not a real significant amount of business 'owed' to PAR, so that map color somewhat overstates the network's true reach.
  • Brunswick-Augusta is the old Maine Central "Lower Road", which used to be the duplicate Waterville mainline to the "Back Road" to the west. Waterville-Augusta is run as a podunk branch, and Brunswick-Augusta is out-of-service and MEDOT-owned, with some of the Downtown Augusta PAR-owned rails covered over for a makeshift gravel parking lot and some of the ROW's 2nd track berth taken by an un-fenced rail-with-trail trail. However, PAR has right-of-first-refusal takeback options for the whole route...so if the new owners want to go all-in with NNEPRA on upgrades for a Downeaster extension to Augusta + double-stack freight main they can play this option to switch the main from "Back Road" to "Lower Road" and potentially abandon the Back Road between Leeds and Waterville (where it has no on-line customers and there's no worthy passenger proposals). Potential 'swingy' wildcard wholly dependent on what new owners think as they rationalize the Maine map.
  • The out-of-service regular-network branches are: Brunswick-Lisbon (Lewiston Industrial Track, idle 2 years), Brunswick-Augusta (Lower Road described above, last used on sub-lease to defunct Maine Eastern RR ~8 years ago), Oakland-N. Anson (idle 10 years), Brewer-Bucksport (nominally active, but no customers...some poor-odds 'strategery' from MEDOT re: Port of Bucksport that probably won't ever amount to anything). All others are active and considered healthy. OOS Mass. industrial tracks listed in prior post are each way too short (none more than 2 mi. long) to depict on this big map.
  • Of the connecting RR's, these are their main interchanges (bold are nation-largest Class I RR's; italicare Class II size (like PAR).
    • CSX vs. Pan Am Southern: Rotterdam, NY
    • CSX vs. 'solo' Pan Am: Worcester or Ayer. They run a daily "Selkirk-Portland/Portland-Selkirk" (symbol: SEPO/POSE) joint-venture train.
    • Norfolk Southern (i.e. PAS system to greater NS system): Mechanicville, NY
    • Gennesee & Wyoming Lines (RR holding company HQ'd in Darien, CT), owners of following:
      • Providence & Worcester (PW) vs. PAS: Gardner
      • Providence & Worcester (PW) vs. PAR: Worcester
      • New England Central RR (NECR) vs. PAS: Millers Falls, MA (primary) or White River Jct., VT
      • Connecticut Southern RR (CSOR) vs. PAS: Hartford, CT
      • St. Lawrence & Atlantic RR (SLR) vs. PAR: Auburn, ME
    • Vermont Rail System (VRS)...conglomerate that does business under following symbols on map (Vermont divisions all interoperate via direct-connection or trackage rights on others)
      • Vermont Railway (VTR) vs. PAS: Hoosick Jct., NY or North Bennington, VT. (VRS either comes down to Hoosick or PAS comes up to N. Bennington to exchange...big interchange, but no rhyme-or-reason to where it takes place on a given day)
      • Green Mountain RR (GMRR) vs. PAS: Bellows Falls, VT
      • Washington County RR (WACR) vs. PAS: White River Jct., VT
      • New England Southern (NEGS) vs. PAR: Concord, NJ (brand new NH acquisition by VRS for May 2020)
    • Canadian Pacific(CP) vs. PAS: Mohawk, NY
      • CP also has some longstanding joint-venture hauling biz over PAS from Mohawk to Ayer running attached to normal PAS trains.
    • Canadian Pacific (CP) vs. PAR: Northern Maine Jct., Bangor (CP installed as new owner May 2020)
      • CP takes over isolated branch lease on MEDOT Rockland Branch, Brunswick-Rockland, ME for time being (not interested in re-upping for next 10-year state term). Interchanges w/ PAR @ Brunswick.
    • J.D. Irving Lines vs. PAR: Mattawamkeag, ME
      • New Brunswick Southern RR (NBSR). "Primary" face of the company + holding co. for all Canadian lines.
      • Eastern Maine Railway (EMRY). Holding co. for some Maine branches; trains run under New Brunswick Southern flag.
      • Northern Maine Railway (NMRR). Holding co. for Maine branches acquired 2008 from defunct Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MMA); trains run under New Brunswick Southern flag.
    • New Hampshire Northcoast RR (NHN) vs. PAR: Dover, NH (NHN owned by Boston Sand & Gravel; origin of the daily "DOBO" train straight from the sand pits of Ossippee)
    • Central New England RR (CNZR) vs. PAS: Hartford, CT
    • Naugatuck RR (NAUG) vs. PAS: Waterbury, CT
    • Batten Kill RR (BKRR) vs. PAS: Eagle Bridge, NY
    • Housatonic RR (HRCC) vs. PAS: Derby, CT (*very* seldom-used)
    • Milford & Bennington RR (MBRX) vs. PAR: Nashua or Milford, NH (*very* seldom-used)
    • Turner Island RR (TI) vs. PAR: Rigby Yard, South Portland, ME (small terminal carrier operating 2 mi. of track...too small to see on map)
"BPS" (Belfast Preservation Society) and "DSR" (Downeast Scenic) are all-volunteer passenger excursion carriers. PAR interchanges their passenger equipment free of charge every once in a blue moon, but that's it.

Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, Genesee & Wyoming are red-hot buy prospects for parts or all of the system (though G&W may have to put NECR up for sale to make their bid antitust-kosher). So is other Class I behemoth Canadian National (CN), seen at the top of the map around Montreal and New Brunswick. They'd be buying, then alliancing-or-buying a route in from afar. Venture capital is also going to be hugely all over this, so don't be surprised if it's a hedge fund like Fortress Investments (who just sold out so CP could get back into Northern Maine) and not anyone with prior regional presence. Or, some hedge-fund + local player tag-team (which means you can't rule out smaller Irving or VRS making home-run swings either). Opinions run diametrically-opposed as to whether Norfolk Southern is in a buy mode or a sell mode with PAS; no clarity there. About the only thing we know is that CSX is quite satisfied standing pat in Worcester, where it still exerts the largest overall regional leverage over New England.

As said in first post...this will be a crazy sale to watch. Doubly so because Tim Mellon is answerable to no one except his own barking-insane business beliefs on who he chooses to sell to, so normally reliable indicators like "high bidder" are almost meaningless prognosticators here.
 
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Stlin

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Given that PAR owns the line up through Concord, I believe that F-line previously mentioned in some other thread that there's a handshake /wink nod agreement to allow the T to use the Nashua Yard and trackage, in the event a Nashua extension ever happens?

What would a sale mean for these prospects, especially since any new owner would likely seek to expand business? Could the state(s) impose requirements on the sale? Can NH even afford PARs instate mileage?
 

BuilditDenser

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As someone who works in the industrials M&A, I have to imagine this will go strategic (i.e. not a private equity firm). Lending is effectively frozen for deals like this, making leverage hard. I wonder how open the sell side would be to MassDOT doing a carve out on some of the key lines
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Given that PAR owns the line up through Concord, I believe that F-line previously mentioned in some other thread that there's a handshake /wink nod agreement to allow the T to use the Nashua Yard and trackage, in the event a Nashua extension ever happens?

What would a sale mean for these prospects, especially since any new owner would likely seek to expand business? Could the state(s) impose requirements on the sale? Can NH even afford PARs instate mileage?
It's not wink-wink. The GLX land swap deals granted the T lifetime irrevocable trackage rights to Concord at a nominal fee, as well as the Worcester Main for equipment swaps. The full text of it is spelled out in old Surface Transportation Board filings. That isn't changeable by the new owners. Nashua Yard layover rights are allegedly quid pro quo, but half the acreage is literally unused and is a homeless encampment so new owners would honor the quid pro quo simply because it gains them free 24/7 site security.

The way this will work is that after sales terms are presented in a federal STB filing all states, partnering/interchanging RR's, major customers, etc. will have open comment to file their own statements of support/opposition/inquiry, with STB having ruling powers to uphold any brought concerns before their final ruling on the sale. Long process, which will be very thorough here because of antitrust vetting. End of the day all 6 New England states (incl. Rhode Island whose traffic is one-degree removed dependent), New York, MBTA, NNEPRA, Amtrak, CTrail, MNRR, and around 10 freight RR's will have all had their say on the federal record (even when most individually won't have much to say).
 

Wash

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Dumb idea: Could (if given enough money) NNEPRA buy Pan Am (I guess turning into NNERA)? This really is a crazy transit pitch, but this really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Dumb idea: Could (if given enough money) NNEPRA buy Pan Am (I guess turning into NNERA)? This really is a crazy transit pitch, but this really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
No...because NNEPRA is a Maine agency and it's already a kludge how they administer the Downeaster through passive-participant NH. They can't outright-own outside Maine, having to rely on quid pro quos with PAR and MBTA.

MEDOT and NHDOT can absolutely pony up to buy the Western Route, NH Main, and any other strategic considerations into public ownership. Both (even NHDOT) have been aggressive about doing just that in the past.

But except for the Worcester Main where MassDOT/PAR have allegedly been sitting on an M.O.U. for over a year there won't be any pre-sale line dumps. PAS and PAR are transacting intact. The states can deal with the new owners.

For NH that probably changes nothing with prospects for buying the NH Main for commuter rail other than they'll probably be forced to take on the zero-margin Hillsboro Branch in tow as an empty-calorie property tax dump. For the Western Route both states will need to bank in all bridge raising commitments for double-stack clearances as prereq to any buy...and pay the price for a premier asset. No real change from what terms would've been under PAR, only the price could go higher if new ownership drives more immediate biz growth.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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As someone who works in the industrials M&A, I have to imagine this will go strategic (i.e. not a private equity firm). Lending is effectively frozen for deals like this, making leverage hard. I wonder how open the sell side would be to MassDOT doing a carve out on some of the key lines
There's basically nothing left that the state needs. Just the land underneath the 5-mile Fitchburg-Wachusett extension from the PAS side of the system (though the trackage rights are lifetime-guaranteed to prevent a repeat of the 1980's where Guilford/PAR evicted the T from Gardner in spite over losing the CR operator contract to Amtrak). There's already the M.O.U. from PAR for MassDOT buy of the Worcester Main. That is the very last piece of un-owned track that has passenger (non-revenue here) rights.

There is nothing else. I mean, state would happily take the Stony Brook or Lowell Branch sections of freight main if offered just for completism...but they won't be the ones making that call. PAS Patriot Corridor is zero interest for state when they're still saving a piggybank for buying the B&A from CSX. And none of the half-mile industrial tracks intersect with any passenger or strategic big biz; state already owns the Port of Boston ones that constitute the only such biz upside.

Fact is that the state got 90% of what it needed from this network in the giant 1976 Boston & Maine bankruptcy asset sale...and 37 years of PAR being PAR coughed up the rest of anything worth having. MassDOT's already sitting in the idealized position with this being almost strictly a sale of trackage rights on lines they either own or have guaranteed lifetime rights to (a la NH running to Concord).
 

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FWIW...here are the state rail maps showing what is public vs. private.
  • MassDOT doesn't seem to publish PDF maps anymore, so you have to go to their GIS website.

  • NHDOT: https://www.nh.gov/dot/programs/bikeped/maps/documents/RailOperatorMap080318.pdf
    • PAR is in dark green. They own the Western Route from MA to ME state lines, NH Main from MA state line to Concord, Portsmouth/Newington branches, and the Hillsboro Branch Nashua-Wilton. Hampton-Portsmouth and Concord (junction with NHDOT White Mountain Branch) to Boscawen are abandoned and in process of transacting to NHDOT.

  • MEDOT: https://www1.maine.gov/mdot/maps/docs/2020/Maine_Rail_System.pdf
    • PAR is magenta, Downeaster trackage rights striped. The isolated line out by Calais is a map error; that's been sold to J.D. Irving Lines (under Eastern Maine Railway umbrella). The Madison Branch northwest of Waterville has been out-of-service 10 years, the Bucksport Branch south of Bangor has been out-of-service 1+ years, and PAR's trackage rights on the state-owned Lewiston Industrial Track northwest of Brunswick have been out-of-service 2 years.
    • The "Lower Road" mainline from Brunswick to Waterville is active Augusta-Waterville, out-of-service Brunswick to the river crossing just north of Downtown Augusta. PAR-owned portion in Downtown Augusta is paved-over by gravel for makeshift parking lot, deal revokable at-will by PAR on 30 days notice with City required to sweep gravel off railhead. MEDOT-owned portion is out-of-service and carrier-less, but PAR has a take-back option to reinstate rights over entire corridor if it so chooses. This is a hedge on future Downeaster Brunswick-Augusta extension paying for brand new freight physical plant, such that they'd trade their Waterville mainline to the "Lower Road" and abandon the desolate Leeds-Waterville segment of the current "Back Road" main. Lot of moving parts to consider, but this is a potential wildcard under any new ownership. Especially if Northern Maine faces any prospects of freight disinvestment unless the state partners up on upgrades.
    • Canadian National (Class I and Canadian Pacific's arch-rival) is thought to be the leading candidate...for now...for the Ayer-east PAR side of the system. Their connection to the rest of their transcontinential network would be over the St. Lawrence & Atlantic's Montreal-Auburn, ME mainline owned by holding company Gennesee & Wyoming (who also own MA lines Providence & Worcester, New England Central, and Connecticut Southern). G&W has been rumored to have SLR on the block, so it's assumed that CN would also make a strong play for that one.

  • VTrans: https://vtrans.vermont.gov/sites/aot/files/documents/RailAviationMap_11x17.pdf
    • PAS Patriot Corridor main clips Pownal, VT in extreme SW corner of state.
    • PAS has co-rights with New England Central on the Gennesee & Wyoming-owned Conn River Line MA state line to White River Jct. Crazy tangled historical arrangement as some customers are PAS's, some are NECR's, and they both have certain rights to steal from each other. Conn River ownership was an infamous Supreme Court eminent domain case when Amtrak and the states sued PAR in the 1980's for negligent maintenance on the Conn River Springfield-White River Jct. for the Montrealer and tried to seize the property. Supremes ruled against the states. Eventually in the settlement the Montrealer changed routings in MA, and PAR sold the VT portion to NECR's predecessors to keep the heat off. MassDOT's buy of the Springfield Conn River and Amtrak relocation back to the original route finally ended that saga.
    • PAR still retains ownership of the isolated out-of-service "Twin State Railroad" segment of ex-Maine Central Mountain Division...where they sublet the line to a now-extinct shortline. Sublet lasted until Summer 2019 (almost 20 years after the shortline went belly-up), so after years of waiting it's now just sitting there as a property residual waiting to be scraped off the books into state ownership. This line connects to the active cluster in Whitefield, NH on the NHDOT map, and is a sought-after strategic hold for VTrans.

  • ConnDOT: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOT/documents/dpt/2013railcolor36x242D09052013pdf.pdf
    • PAS owns the Highland Line, Berlin-Waterbury + 4 industrial tracks along it. They also have overhead (i.e. express-only, no customers served) rights on the entire Springfield Line to New Haven, but are only allowed to stop in Hartford to interchange with other shortlines or in New Haven to do *very limited* amounts of intermodal at CSX Cedar Hill Yard. Those are all ex-Conrail booby traps from when a freshly profitable Boston & Maine bought its way into Connecticut in 1982 (ironically, B&M's only territorial expansion of the entire 20th century). Highland a likely sell to ConnDOT for future commuter rail considerations, but will transact with the company to the new buyer first because they are awaiting plans for a humongous intermodal yard in Naugatuck with Poland Spring as the anchor customer with daily Maine-to-CT "Aqua Train". Plans are pretty far along, at tipping point of becoming real in next 12 months if nothing goes awry. No way the new buyer sells the ROW until fate is settled, because they can milk ConnDOT for a fortune in mutually-serving freight + pax upgrades if the branch is going to see bigtime traffic.

  • New York: https://www.dot.ny.gov/divisions/op...ssenger-rail-repository/2019 NYS Rail Map.pdf
    • See Greater Albany inset. PAS Patriot Corridor continues to Mechanicville, NY. Norfolk Southern accesses PAS holdings out of Binghamton via Schenectady. Shared co-rights with Canadian Pacific between Schenectady-Mechanicville. Rotterdam Branch between Mohawk-Rotterdam is primary CSX interchange.
    • Note that all of the giant East-of-Mississippi Class I RR's except for Canadian National butt heads in Greater Albany, which is why that's Northeastern freight's center of the universe. Everyone's scheming flows from here...including the holding companies like Gennesee & Wyoming who are looking for better angles to play off the Albany players. Being shut out of Albany also explains the whole of why CN's interest in the PAR side of the system is so high. If they gain direct access Montreal-Portland via St. Lawrence & Atlantic they can use the PAR system to hit all the Albany outflow via the Ayer/Worcester backdoor instead and play off new alliances with secondary players to influence traffic in CT/RI and VT. It's basically their killshot solve for the Albany shutout, which is why they seem willing to buy two steps ahead of getting their hands on the SLR mainline that provides the direct connection. They can afford to overpay Gennesee & Wyoming for SLR if they already have PAR locked down. This sale has got eight-dimensional chess levels of strategery being plotted behind it by MULTIPLE bidders, making it all that crazier a speculation.
 
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WormtownNative

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Take this with a HUGE grain of salt, but the rumor mill over on RR.net (from "sources" within PAR) is saying the deal for Pan Am's sale is closer to done that what is being said publicly. Rumored to be some sort of announcement at the end of the month, and the rumor mill is further identifying CN as the buyer.

Again, take that with a huge grain of salt, but that would prove interesting if true.
 

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