Freight and General New England RR News

Tallguy

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Just pointing out that you seem to be alone in your issues with TM...as so often is the case
 

StillInTheHood

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F-Line is not alone at being ... how shall I put this? ... disappointed with TransitMatters. This piece and their recent regional transit vision piece both come across as if written by well-meaning kids who don't understand railroad operations basics and don't understand the economics of freight lines or intermodal transfers and sometimes don't seem to grasp business economics in general, which leads to the insinuation that there's some grand conspiracy behind the withering of uneconomic branch networks that served dead and dying industries. The very fact that they cite to Europe on freight issues is a 'tell' ... we correctly look to Europe for models and solutions on passenger rail, where they are light years more advanced than we are, but that is emphatically NOT the case for freight. That's a big reason why the ownership structures which F-Line states are so different ... in Europe freight is often the tail wagged by the dog of public policy because the passenger traffic dominates the economics of key lines and has done so for a century. Here the opposite is true and will continue to be true for most of the nation's rail network for our lifetimes. On the one hand, freight rail is far, far too important to our economy not to understand its workings in great detail where it overlaps with current and would-be passenger rail, and on the other hand ... the paper mills aren't coming back, guys, and that's ultimately a good thing, that wasn't exactly a green or industry of the future to begin with, it's off topic and not of interest to transit. The same is true for a bunch of other industries that were hanging by a thread. Stop wandering off piste.

What's frustrating is that F-Line isn't the only more ops-knowledgeable person out there who shares their fundamental goals. There are certainly some who pop on to railroad.net from time to time. I'm far from a railroad expert myself, but I am an engineer and I've been involved with truck-versus-train decision making and I've had the good fortune to have interacted with many people whose knowledge is deeper than mine over the years. When someone like me winces a bit when reading through their stuff, that's not a good sign. If their more experienced Board members are too busy or too hands-off to be involved personally, can they at least rustle up a gearhead in their networks who can help them edit and proof? And shoot, if they can't figure that out, why don't they cut a deal with F-Line to critique their stuff 72 hours in advance of publication? The advocacy would be much better if the factual errors were eliminated and the red herrings pruned from the overall argument.
 

StillInTheHood

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To elaborate a bit further: I think many (most?) of us who are active on this board are on the "same side" as advocates for greater spending and a more aggressive, positive posture of government on public transportation, especially rail. We wish TransitMatters the best. We want them to be effective.

But I think we and they need to be focused and realistic to make our advocacy powerful. Do the states of New England have an interest in what happens to Pan Am? Sure! But as F-Line has pointed out in previous posts, Mass in particular already has negotiated rights over most of the network pieces that may be useful from a transit standpoint. What I would have welcomed from TransitMatters is a piece that zeroed in precisely on the pieces of the network of most public/passenger transport interest to the states going forward, and perhaps any useful tweaks that could be made to some of the existing agreements if necessary. Nashua-Manchester is certainly worth some focus.

None of this remotely suggests that the states should somehow pool together to create a British Leyland of Northern New England rail. Sure, Pan Am may have deferred maintenance to a fault, but many of the downgrades and abandonments were caused by the disappearance of customers, not the other way around. While F-Line may be right about the ability of a better capitalized and better networked owner to return some service to customers in Southern New Hampshire (I'm not an expert on that micro-math!) I'm sure he would quickly acknowledge that the big $$$ were never in this local service. We can quibble with the way Pan Am was run, but they weren't nearly as stupid as some have implied. They understood that much of the freight business of the B&M had been on the decline for decades and they weren't going to change those trends. Their business model was geared around the pieces that made money.

Back to transit: I think we all recognize that it's going to take huge investment to achieve the integrated rail network that we all want - be that regular fast service to Manchester NH, or the RER-ification of MBTA commuter rail, the Blue Line extension to Lynn, the Green Line extension to Needham, Red-Blue connector ... the list is long! And to carry the day, we need to convince skeptical politicians and an often skeptical populace that the investment will yield worthwhile returns. So focus and realism is important. Look at how difficult it has been to convince New Hampshire of the merits of an easy-to-execute Nashua extension! Massachusetts residents may be somewhat easier to convince to open their pocketbooks, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that the median voter or politician has any interests in buying up neglected branch lines with no passenger rail possibilities just because some kid thinks a political entity would run them better than Pan Am did. Antitrust policing is certainly a public policy interest, but that's a Fed concern, and, as F-Line has noted, railroad antitrust is an entirely different kettle of fish than other antitrust, the government still takes this seriously. And if you are even going to talk about this, you need to at least understand the relationships and power dynamics between the existing players.

In short, I wish TransitMatters would focus on transit matters. "Public subsidy of trucking" isn't what drove containerization or the intermodal revolution. Pan Am didn't put the dying industries of northern New England out of business, it was rather they who killed the B&M. Public investment in passenger transportation is necessary, but please let's not blur the advocacy for that with nonsense that will turn off important potential allies. State dollars may be "just as green" as private dollars, but often they've been spent where private dollars would never go and where the public interest has been hard to discern ... be that on Maine branch lines or Curt Schilling's videogames.
 

Wash

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I don't think that Transitmatters is wrong when the say that turning Pan Am into a sort of "New England Network Rail" is a good idea. They are wrong that it's a necessary step to creating good passenger service (as F-line and others have pointed out), but an open-access railway has a good chance of quickly improving freight service for all of New England.

Also, whoever buys Pan Am is going to need so much money to solve the many years of deferred maintenance that some of that is going to have to come from governments. Giving said governments a stake in how that money is spent is only fair, and cuts down on graft.

Almost more importantly, open access would be a valuable experiment. While we in New England may be blessed with freight roads that are nice to our passenger trains, not everywhere is.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I don't think that Transitmatters is wrong when the say that turning Pan Am into a sort of "New England Network Rail" is a good idea. They are wrong that it's a necessary step to creating good passenger service (as F-line and others have pointed out), but an open-access railway has a good chance of quickly improving freight service for all of New England.

Also, whoever buys Pan Am is going to need so much money to solve the many years of deferred maintenance that some of that is going to have to come from governments. Giving said governments a stake in how that money is spent is only fair, and cuts down on graft.

Almost more importantly, open access would be a valuable experiment. While we in New England may be blessed with freight roads that are nice to our passenger trains, not everywhere is.
Open access is not legally possible here. Everything is contractual entanglements layered upon contractual entanglements. The only places you have open-access are where the state bought a line out from under a carrier...the carrier eventually opted out of its trackage rights...and the state's recruitment of new trackage rights was on renewable contract. That's how the Cape Cod lines work. Conrail sold out the Cape Main + Falmouth Branch and some industrial track flotsam in Taunton to MassDOT in 1982 with intent to get out of the nothingburger business there as soon as the state could recruit a replacement shortline. Bay Colony was recruited on a 10-year deal...then got reupped. Come the 2002-03 contract renewal Bay Colony ended up getting outbid by Cape Rail (the dinner train folks) who pitched a brand new freight carrier, Mass Coastal. They won the bid...Bay Colony was out. The next 10-year renewal is coming, and now that Cape Rail's ownership situation has recently stabilized they're a rubber-stamp shoo-in because they've gone above and beyond the call helping the state out with Cape Flyer track upgrades and other odd jobs as a construction outsource.

BUT...it's a tale of two territories. MC has to re-up every 10 years on the Cape and on the Dean St. Industrial Track in Taunton (a.k.a. active southernmost rump of Stoughton Line)...but the deal they cut with CSX to take over freight on the Fall River and New Bedford Lines was for-keeps. State purchased the ROW from CSX, but the freight rights were conveyed direct from CSX to MC. MC thus is owner of the South Coast freight franchise that began in the 1850's with Old Colony RR, was leased to NYNH&H for 99 years at turn of 20th century, was acquired by Penn Central in 1969, conveyed to Conrail in 1974 when it absorbed bankrupt PC, and conveyed to CSX in 1999 when they bought Conrail. Those rights are 160+ years contiguous and irrevocable...and if MC wants to sell them to someone else they can (contingent on what protectionism conditions MC has to live under from the '08 CSX deal, because CSX definitely booby-trapped it to keep a major competitor from intruding) The state has lots of leeway to chart the big-picture course now that they own the line, and having can-do MC in there instead of "crap bigger'n you" CSX is key for them for all the South Coast Rail building. But if MassCoastal turns sour the only way to remove them is to do an adverse filing to the Surface Transportation Board and stiffly argue how MC is failing to uphold the corridor's interests. A very, very, very hard thing to prove because the feds--as Still mentions--regulate the industry so heavily top-down. You really have to prove some serious negligence to get rid of a trackage rights squatter...and MC thus far has been the complete positive opposite of negligent as a carrier for those lines.

Open access...as it exists on the Cape lines...also didn't totally snuff out Bay Colony even though the loss of the trash train was a mortal blow. Because one of their '82 pickups was the New Bedford-Westport Wattupa Branch, which was a mirror-image case to MC acquiring the South Coast mainlines...Conrail wanted out, sold land to state, sold rights to Bay Colony passed intact from the Old Colony's original Civil War build. Compared to when CSX was still running New Bedford 12 years ago it's a little inconvenient to have to now do a double-handoff--CSX to MC in Middleboro, MC to BC in New Bedford--to serve the businesses in Dartmouth and Westport on that branch. But Bay Colony still holds onto the Wattupa like they're planning to stick around awhile, so nobody has the power to streamline and eliminate a handoff by installing MC as the operator on that branch. They can either buy out Bay Colony's rights + surcharge compensation for all the track work they've sunk into the branch over the years...or it's status-quo forever.


You have to remember that open-access only exists in Europe because the continental rail network was completely, totally destroyed by WWII everywhere except the UK. Invade a country?...cut their rail lines. Defend against a coming invasion?...sabotage your own rail lines so the enemy can't move 1 single kilometer without hitting a break. The French Resistance were magnificent bastards at bolt-cutters when it came to guerrila-sabotaging Vichy's rail lines in steath no matter how many German soldiers were on-guard...it's the reason why Hitler was never fully able to crush France's neck. The Chinese and Russians were similarly quick to self-sacrifice their rail to a moving front to save their own hides. Picking bombing targets?...rail yards #1 before all others, destroy the locomotives and maint facilities first so nothing can move.

It all had to literally be rebuilt from scratch on public assistance in the Marshall Plan and Warsaw Pact, and all private carriers were so thoroughly destroyed by the War that the economic restart of rail traffic was totally cleansheeted (even if the names of some of the private rail carriers remained the same, they were rebuilt from scratch under new terms). In the Eastern Bloc it was a literal cleansheet, as Communism meant that everything was open-access by default. When the Bloc fell in the early-90's the transitional reboot to public-private enterprise went open-access from Day 1. In the fascist countries where the war machine swallowed private enterprise whole as an arm of the military, the Marshall'ed West Germany, Italy, and Japan also had to cleansheet the terms of the companies that were spun back out into the full-private sphere after demilitarization, which made open-accessing the terms of engagement. Other places where fascism held on longer (like Generalissimo Franco's Spain and its lingering Iberian gauge break from the rest of Europe) went through similar process later on and internally-motivated with rail companies like Talgo that are still around.

There's no comparison. V-E and V-J day were the proverbial B.C. vs. A.D. for the Continental Europe and Southeast Asia rail networks; everything was cleansheeted from there forward. There was no such cleansheeting ever in U.S. rail history. Here in Massachusetts we have intact rights lineages from 1832 still in effect to this day on both the property rights of ROW's and the carrier rights. Most of the country east of Mississippi and north of Mason-Dixon line has similar pre-Civil War continuity. The only place that had a cleansheeting was the Confederacy...where the Civil War utterly destroyed the nascent rail networks of the south and Reconstruction paid to rebuild it all. But in a different era of private enterprise, not top-down planning. We didn't have a 20th c. reboot. Even the Northeastern bankruptcy crisis of the 70's, creation of Conrail and Amtrak, and spinoff of all remaining commuter rail services to public agencies was only a partial reboot (albeit one that puts the likes of Massachusetts in extremely favorable position for how many lines they managed to buy in those settlements).

There's not even a comparison here with the UK's open-access rail network which did survive the War intact. Their railway nationalisation act of 1947 ended privatization but basically didn't change anything about the way the creaky old network was run or any competition on it until the subsequent 1962 reorganization (infamously known as the "Beeching Axe") which bludgeoned the system to smithereens in a spectacularly ill-advised austerity move. They've spent better part of 40 years trying to recover their catastrophic losses there, with North vs. South still being a travesty of haves vs. have-nots contrasts on quality and density of rail service. The network was reopened to competition in 1994 with the end of the failed nationalisation effort...but this time with open-access rights because the starting point was full nationalisation. Not a U.S. analogue. And since rail nationalisation was goddamn the worst thing England ever did to shoot its own transport in the foot, a 50-year exercise in "Oops, our bad" isn't repeat-worthy.


To understand why open-access is where it is...and is not where it's not...you have to have basic understanding of the origin story. Total War, Cold War, and global rebuilding-from-scratch were not the incumbent conditions here in the U.S.. The North American network (very much including Canada) is a much older continuous lineage than what had to be rebuilt Europe and Southeast Asia post-1945 under a total cleansheeted level of organization. It's not a comparison one can wistfully cherry-pick as applicable. "Best practices" research has to apply the relevancy filter there, because whether it's abstractly "best" or not it's 1000% irrelevant for any real-world "practice" here. Other than extreme-limited cases like Cape Cod that mechanism just doesn't exist and doesn't have a jumping-off point when 1-1/2 centuries of strongly affirmed rights caselaw has to be overturned to make it so. Euroland open-access as an import prospect here is not a talking point of the universe we live in.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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MassDOT's thrown up a project page for the Pan Am Southern Patriot Corridor double-stack clearances project. 23 separate locations (1 VT, 22 MA) have been ID'd that need touches for increasing the line's current autorack vertical clearance (19'6") to domestic double-stack clearance (20'6") from the intermodal yard in Mechanicville, NY to Ayer's Hill Yard just south of the Ayer Station wye. Biggest of all is the Hoosac Tunnel between North Adams and Florida, MA...recipient of an engineering grant several years ago, but expected to be self-funded by Norfolk Southern and Pan Am (or any successors, who will be on the hook for it). The other 20 touches are at single-point bridges, involving bridge mods or trackbed undercuts. 5 touches are in MBTA territory east of Wachusett, though only 2 of them require any possible MassHighway assistance with bridge touches as all others can be accomplished with trackbed undercuts.

Presence of project page seems to suggest that they'll be getting started on the non-Hoosac touches pretty soon and need a landing spot for announcing upcoming temp road closures and whatnot.


FWIW...when Regional Rail electrification comes to Fitchburg (probably not soon, as it would take one 25kV substation to get to Littleton short-turn and another sub to get to Wachusett), the same 5 overhead bridges + 2 more untouched for the double-stack project (Leominster Shirley Rd., Lunenberg and W. Main St., Ayer), would need further modifications for a total 23' vertical clearance (or 20'6" double-stack + 2'6" safe wire clearance). Pretty unlikely they'd be future-proofing that far given that the 5 on-tap are all going to be majority-settled cheaply with trackbed cuts partially paid for by the freight RR's. They'll have to re-evaluate later, but generally speaking the DS mods are so cheap and benign it wouldn't save them any cost or labor to loading up this many years in advance for the extra +2.5 ft. in electrification future-proofing. That'll be its own independent project...but at only 7 Fitchburg spans you aren't talking anything major when the time comes. Lowell and Haverhill are going to be the ones whose bridge mods ultimately run up the electrification costs.
 
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Stlin

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While in general I support governments securing RoWs and leasing them to operators, I have questions.

a) Does the Commonwealth have the power to forcibly split Pan Am's assets into desirables and not, as MA can't buy it's out of state trackage, and isnt going to buy the operating business? The Law cited explicitly refers to "railroad property," RoW and facilities. The law as written doesn't necessarily allow the state to pick and choose; it simply forces the seller to offer the same thing to the state as to other buyers. So, in this scenario, pan am could probably simply offer all of its trackage in a single huge package, or many multiple portions. Unclear which will happen, or if the state has the appetite for it all.

b) If Pan Am structures their sale as a stock sale, and not an asset sale, I don't think the law cited applies, as the company remains extant as a subsidiary of whoever buys it and in control of its RoWs; only it's ownership change hands.

c) does the State have the funding capacity to actually buy Pan Am's in state assets?

d) No clue on how it handles partial ownership, as with PAS. Basically, this law has a lot of unaccounted for nuances.

e) this sale broke in July. The state is required to give a response to any offer within 90 days, or it is treated as an automatic refusal. If we presume an offer was made to MA promptly, contemporaneously with the public announcement... 90 days is up on Tuesday, Sept 29. That's not exactly enough time. But, if it's only required to do so once it has an offer from a private bidder, so it can go offer -1?
That strikes me as a potential wrench, as buyers would have to submit an offer without knowing if MA will sever out some assets, as law cited only requires that no other buyer be given terms more favorable than the Commonwealth.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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While in general I support governments securing RoWs and leasing them to operators, I have questions.

a) Does the Commonwealth have the power to forcibly split Pan Am's assets into desirables and not, as MA can't buy it's out of state trackage, and isnt going to buy the operating business?. . .
No, they do not. RR's being federally regulated means you have to prove some over-the-top negligence to initiate eminent domain, such as Amtrak taking Guilford/Pan Am to court in the 1980's over deplorable Conn River Line track conditions for the Montrealer. They lost that one in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Guaranteed that if 1985's Conn River Line ruination didn't rise to the standard, absolutely nothing on the 'okay'-condition Patriot Corridor would ever meet the standard for forced top-down action. The feds are resolute about that.

This is just like the B&A for East-West or NNEIRI/Inland Route. If they want it, they pay the fucking going rate to buy the private business's premier asset. Or simply cry moar if they think that asking price is too high.

b) If Pan Am structures their sale as a stock sale, and not an asset sale, I don't think the law cited applies, as the company remains extant as a subsidiary of whoever buys it and in control of its RoWs; only it's ownership change hands.
PAR is all-private, so there wouldn't be a stock sale. However, the Patriot Corridor is 50/50 PAR and Norfolk Southern, so is already an unwieldy beast for transactioning. But it's still moot, because the state can't force-initiate anything. If Norfolk Southern ends up buying out PAR's 50%, selling its 50% to whoever buys out PAR, or keeping a 50/50 with somebody else...it's same as before. Premier shipping lane = pay the premium asking price or GTFO. But the complications with the freight ownership stakes here means under no circumstances do they want to float any buy ideas until well AFTER the transaction. If one party--and possibly a Class I at that--ends up walking away with it all, public buy gets greatly simplified. PAR is trying to goose the asking price for its premier corporate asset; right now would be far and away the most inflated the price will be.

PAS ownership includes the 5-mile Wachusett Extension, which is the only 'foreign' territory commuter rail currently runs in and the only portion of the Patriot Corridor lock/stock ownership that is any priority for MassDOT. Because the MBTA trackage rights deal for Fitchburg-Wachusett is permanent and irrevocable, the state incurs too little risk running under a nominal-fee landlord to have any legal force-fits. On these 5 miles as everywhere, it's a wholly business choice to pay the going rate. The T already indemnified itself with this unrevokable trackage rights agreement against the retaliatory shannanigans Guilford pulled 32 years ago evicting the agency from Gardner over spilt-milk from losing the CR operator's contract. Again...zero urgency for anyone except these marginal Legislature critters who want their pork now-now-now against all business logic.

c) does the State have the funding capacity to actually buy Pan Am's in state assets?
They have "funding" to magically buy any ROW if there's a serious viability threat to it. But no...this is an awfully low-value passenger prospect for the sky-high asking price, let alone as a pre- PAR sale rush job. This line, thanks to the PAS partnership, is in more secure shape than it's been in 35 years. It's not under any threat of being "Guilforded". And it's not like buying the B&A to upgrade it where that's going to enable 8 AMTK Inland round-trips, BOS-MTL, enhanced Springfield hubbage with ConnDOT, and East-West all in the coattails of one expensive buy while CSX gets satiated with "pimp my yard" quid pro quo's in West Springfield and 60 MPH freight running speeds to pad their profit margins. This North Adams "Flyer" thingy is an extremely marginal passenger proposal, and the only service pattern of any kind that would trawl past Wachusett. It's been poorly studied, and is likely going to have to fit into a very constrained space for farebox recovery because the line is geometrically so curvy and maintained to a much slower freight speed limit than would make any passenger trip tolerable.

One reason to wait? It's Norfolk Southern company policy that anything of intermodal mainline grade be upgraded to minimum Class 3: 40 MPH freight / 60 MPH passenger). Because they'll be coming up from Harrisburg and Binghamton to serve the big IM terminals at Mechanicville and Ayer. For Pan Am, however, Class 2 (25 MPH freight, 30 MPH passenger) is just fine within the regional context. Yeah, they're notorious--especially in Maine--for crap maintenance...but 25 MPH is adequate for them doing their daily showcase East Deerfield-Portland round-trip that conjoins the PAS and Portland districts of the system. Patriot Corridor, as with all of PAR, also got itself an extremely lucky exemption to the PTC mandate (you'd think Class I NS owning 50% would auto-trigger the mandate, but they somehow magnificent-bastarded themselves an FRA waiver). Why would the state be interested in buying a slow railroad when 1) the very act of leaving it alone gets somebody else building the faster one for their own profits, and 2) any Class I buying it first puts them on the hook for the PTC installation. Who would rather have MassDOT buy it today...then get stuck with a $50M bill for installing the PTC for somebody else's mandate as well as needing to pay lion's share of the speed upgrades somebody else was willing to pay out of pocket? All because we just had to rush a title deed into state hands right this second. Yeah...didn't think so.

d) No clue on how it handles partial ownership, as with PAS. Basically, this law has a lot of unaccounted for nuances.
Norfolk Southern's 50% is all over the federal record, but PAR being Tim Mellon's wholly-private plaything...yep, thar be dragons. Until the sale is hashed out in agonizingly slow fashion in front of the Surface Transportation Board for purposes of transacting to the 99% likely publicly-traded buyer (be it a Class I RR or a capital/bank-backed partnership), we have no fucking idea what PAR is actually made of.

This matters the world on the Pat Corridor because of Hoosac Tunnel. It is rumored with *wide enough* attribution to be likely true that Boston & Maine never had insurance on the tunnel because of its longstanding geological challenges with groundwater intrusion and ceiling cave-ins. Or at least that's how it was accounted when bankrupt B&M had to pay out-of-pocket to repair a very bad 1973 cave-in. It's thought that since the PAR buy in '83 that nothing has changed; the Hoosac is still uninsurable at industry rates, and thus all upkeep is totally out-of-pocket. 2019's cave-in...the worst since '73...was rumored to also be a Mellon 'cut-dem-checks repair effort and may have been one of the events spurring him to get on with his retirement cash-out.

Does the state really want to poke around here when ^THAT^ is still a mostly off-books question mark? Let's first be clear: the Hoosac Tunnel is not at imminent risk of killing a bunch of North Adams Flyer passengers. 2019's cave-in was on some original-construction roof section 140 years old. They actually found out during inspections for that fix that the '73 'shotcrete' patch job B&M did was holding up splendidly to water-tight seal. This is just the going-rate price of operating a tunnel straight through a porous Berkshire water table that is always, always leaking somewhere on its 5-mile length. Does the state really want to take a gander at this before the books are opened to the full maint record & expenditures for the tunnel? Or before all that PAS self-paid enlargement for double-stacks gets done? Of course not...that's just inviting an unknown/uncontrolled expense on their ledgers for what...so a couple ants-in-pants Berkshire pols can make a last-minute donations push? Yeah, no. There won't be a single MassDOT Secretary ever who prematurely jumps at that.

e) this sale broke in July. The state is required to give a response to any offer within 90 days, or it is treated as an automatic refusal. . .
Timetable keeps getting pushed back. No offer has been "officially" made until it gets submitted to the Surface Transportation Board. Speculation still runs wild as ever, but in practicality this was always going to be a slow process. Latest rumor is that the hedge funds are more involved than before, but these are leaks from the same 'insiders' who were saying "Print it! It's Canadian National" 2 months ago. All that's proven is what we've known all along: Tim Mellon can/will do whatever the fuck he wants, for however as long as he personally needs it to take him. Even if something gets announced in Oct., the STB meat grinder is going to ensure that it'll be well into 2021 before we know who gets the (train) keys.

Given all that, what exactly does MassDOT have to act upon on 9/23/2020? Nothing. Just keep watching with interest like the rest of the world, then plan to meet the new owners where they are on any future coordination. Not only is there no queue-jumping potential, but given things like the Hoosac books' unknowns a panic public buy would quite possibly be the worst of all worlds. Patience is a virtue with this one.
 
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GP40MC

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In an interesting development, Bay Colony got out the brush cutter this week on the moribund Millis Branch! The 1701 was moved east under the RT27 bridge out of the way. There are also rumors of work on trestle after the brush cutting is done. No active customers and no moves, I think, for almost a year or so. Also in play at Rumor Control is the possibility of Tresca using rail again and some sort of transformer move.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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In an interesting development, Bay Colony got out the brush cutter this week on the moribund Millis Branch! The 1701 was moved east under the RT27 bridge out of the way. There are also rumors of work on trestle after the brush cutting is done. No active customers and no moves, I think, for almost a year or so. Also in play at Rumor Control is the possibility of Tresca using rail again and some sort of transformer move.
Just in time for a new condo development to get greenlit near the Environmental Dr. sand transloading spot Tresca used. How much you wanna bet the developers were like "Oh, this line will be abandoned by the time we start leasing and the trail plans will be proceeding. Bank it!"

Bay Colony sort of defies all logic and reason for still being in business at all. Owned by a larger/healthier RR in Florida of all places they keep clinging to these last MA outposts making 4Ā¢ for every penny spent. Millis has been the walking dead for 11 years since the big downtown GAF plant closed, even with Tresca throwing them a liferaft for a few years here and there with the seasonal transloads. And Dartmouth-Westport has just the brewery + building supply company at Old Reed Rd. and Mid-City Scrap at the end of the line...scrap steel pretty much wearing a weathervane for whether the market is up or down in any given year. 3 beat-to-piss locos, a handful of railcars, all part-time employees numbering fewer than you can count on one hand. And utterly staggering territorial losses in 38 years of operation that saw a once-impressive (if patchwork) network shrink to just these two last stands. Cape trash train and passenger contracts...Falmouth Depot freight & pax...Dennis...Plymouth Line & Hanover Branch...Newton & West Roxbury...Taunton cluster & Somerset Branch...West Concord-North Acton...Braintree-Cohasset. Everyone keeps predicting that parent Seminole Railway is just going to throw in the towel on Millis and put Westport up for sale to cash out, but here they are beginning their 5th calendar decade in MA looking to pull yet another 11th hour stay-of-execution. I give them credit for perserverence, even if it defies all rational biz logic.



Oh...and yesterday Grafton & Upton filed with the STB to formally acquire CSX's Franklin-Milford rights. That's the formality filing completing the 12-year capper to their mainline restoration to Milford. Playing the long game indeed. Hard to believe that they're now perennial Shortline-of-the-Year material with magnificent bastard -level transload business plan making them money hand over fist a mere 15 years after they had shrunk to just a half-mile of operable track in North Grafton and had pop-up trail lobbies nipping at their heels to fork over the weed-choked ROW. One of the more improbable feel-good stories in the entire industry. Although a passing of sorts. G&U were the oldest continuously operating RR in the country running on its original charter and nothing more...many different owners since 1873 but never once merged/split/leased/affiliated with any other RR or RR alliance, only a North Grafton-Milford jaunt. The acquisition of CSX's Milford Branch trackage rights means they now are going to hold the freight franchise originated from the 1855 Milford & Woonsocket RR passed to New York & New England to NYNH&H to Penn Central to Conrail to CSX. 147 years to pop its merger/acquisition cherry...better late than never, I guess.

Interestingly, the STB filing includes a clause NOT precluding interchange with a 3rd-party railroad. Which is a rather unbelievable concession on CSX's part, since they are usually airtight about paper-barriering their shortline partners to them and only them. Might signal that John Priscoli is not done trying to invest in Cape Rail/Mass Coastal and stringing together a SE Mass shortline kingdom. G&U did secure rainy-day overhead rights Franklin-Walpole to hit CSX Walpole Yard in a contingency, which would allow them to pass loads to/from Mass Coastal when the CSX job departs there. After what he's accomplished so far with G&U I wouldn't put anything past Priscoli's ambition. He's a rare breed of shrewd.
 
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GP40MC

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I remember the first iteration of the Mass Coastal - The Charles River Railroad. They tried and failed to get the branch, which was still active east to Needham, from the Bay Colony. Even had a color
scheme for the locomotives. Got some paperwork somewhere.

As far as the BCLR goes, I also wonder why they are still around. Had/have friends there and lots of fond memories railfanning their operations.
 

GP40MC

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F-Line to Dudley

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Randoid weirdo captain-of-industry Timothy Mellon: making his last calendar year of "It's my railroad so YOLO!" count. . .

Last week, Nashua:



Today, Portsmouth (via NErail), in view of Route 1 (but apparently not close enough for NHDOT to have any say about it):




The best part is PAR probably wasted like 6 crew shifts' worth of pay staging this stunt between Deerfield, Nashua, the Nashua local, back to the yard, back to Deerfield, to Lawrence, Dover, and a 10 MPH crawl to Portsmouth. And those were probably the two least-graffitied boxcars they had available in the fleet. šŸ¤”
 

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"Enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people"
--Andrew Mellon to President Hoover, sometime following the onset of the Great Depression

"Um... ditto that [I think?]"
--Andrew's grandson Timothy

By the way I just checked out his Wiki page. Sweet Jesus, his politics make Randolph (Randy) & Mortimer Duke look like humanitarians of the year.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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"Enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people"
--Andrew Mellon to President Hoover, sometime following the onset of the Great Depression

"Um... ditto that [I think?]"
--Andrew's grandson Timothy

By the way I just checked out his Wiki page. Sweet Jesus, his politics make Randolph (Randy) & Mortimer Duke look like humanitarians of the year.
He backed into being self-made with his own autobiography, too...on account of it being so toxic in its descriptions of black people that there wasn't a publisher in the land who would touch it with a radiation suit, so he had to release it himself. For only $9 funneled to some charity with a donor list you're probably better off going to sleep not knowing, you too can own a PDF copy of His Story! :censored:
 
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