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F-Line to Dudley

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A protest that strenuous by Norfolk Southern makes this highly improbable to pass muster with the STB. That much is clear-cut. Even when Class I's get up in other Class I's grills over transactions, it's usually only glancing-blow type stuff like a consequential alliance up-for-grabs...not for-the-jugular territorial fights. This is a full-on hostile entanglement, and direct threats to primary traffic lanes. The feds get easily spooked by that. They'll telegraph that they want this spat redirected to more productive ground first...but if it comes to a final showdown NS's objections are going to be very hard to ignore.

CSX is looking to broker something...its Selkirk-Portland joint venture with PAR run via Worcester is a big moneymaker. But there isn't a chance in hell they want to run the duplicate Fitchburg route, not a chance in hell any purchase would be approved with them holding a duopoly of dominant trans- New England routes (yeah, MassDOT and a couple other states will have big problems with that too), and extraordinarily doubtful chance in hell that they want anything to do with the decrepit Portland-Bangor-Mattawamkeag mainline. So they're either dropping a smokebomb to get an alliancing partner to jump out of the weeds who'll help them somehow with the singular Worcester-Portland piece they value, or are planning for the system to be broken up into kajillion pieces (extremely unlikely if those pieces don't have names preselected by CSX up-front).


No closer to resolution than it was yesterday given what manifold legal hurdles CSX faces in getting anything close to what it says it wants...but definitely not a boring story anymore that's for sure!
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Prevailing speculation (WARNING: most prevailing speculation to-date has been hopelessly wrong) is that this seemingly impossible salvo is designed to force Norfolk Southern to shit or get off the pot on finally buying up the other half of PAS so the deal-killing route duplication Albany-Ayer gets taken out of the picture. Then CSX buys solo-PAR for the Worcester-Portland lane, with aims on doing something in Northern Maine to hook itself into haulage agreement to Port of St. John (via J.D. Irving Lines) where it can compete with Canadian Pacific for dominance at the maritime ports. NS would be compensated by CSX for its deed by getting a favorable cut on Ayer-Portland haulage.


There are LOTS of holes in that theory. Namely why CSX would ever want to tie itself to that many miles of godawful north-of-Portland track that's nowhere near up-to-snuff for tapping Maritime intermodal (Canadian Pacific is going much faster with its track upgrades across its re-acquired east-west Moosehead Subdivision line from Quebec to Brownville, ME than any Pan Am buyer could ever hope to from the south). Or how there's enough up-up-UPside in the Maritimes to begin with for all the pain and suffering when they're at no shortage of alliancing vectors. Or why the Worcester-Portland lane itself is such white-hot shit when daily 75-car round-trip "SEPO/POSE" ("Selkirk-Portland/Portland-Selkirk") doesn't seem to have enough gears to add frequencies or go 100+ cars anytime soon (i.e. it's big but not that big). Or why they'd want more of Greater Boston or forlorn New Hampshire when they've been nonstop dumping local territory to shortlines on the southside (i.e. why not work through another proxy on SEPO/POSE who'll take more interest in the locals?). And so on and so on.

But it at least explains the logic of cartwheeling headlong into an STB rejection if it gets Norfolk Southern to stop being complacent and finally act on taking over the PAS side of the system. The rest might involve similar multi-dimensional chess trying to smoke out action from other parties on the parts they don't necessarily want. Or they're just trolling everyone. You too can throw darts at a wall and come off sounding like an expert!!!


Canadian National hasn't been spoken of in a long time. According to (WARNING: same constantly wrong) insider-ishes it's mostly been the holding companies & hedge funds sniffing around of late. Gennessee & Wyoming + banks. Though honestly it makes more railroading sense to marry PAR Worcester-Portland-Bangor into a contiguous system with G&W holdings Providence & Worcester and St. Lawrence & Atlantic than it does frigging CSX at this point. All G&W needs to square that with the feds is offering up New England Central for sale as antitrust collateral and hoping NS gets goaded into buying up PAS so they can play Portland-alliancing kingmaker with both the Worcester County Class I's. But that makes too much on-its-face sense. No...we're in genuine crazytown now wondering where this is going to go next. And that's before attempting to speculate on what's going through Tim Mellon's terrifying little brain right this second.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Under the radar...

Apparently while working on the rehab of the Yard 21 tracks next to Sullivan, Keolis crews did some under-bridge pipe relocation on one or more of the Cambridge St./Maffa Way/Mystic Ave. overpasses to increase freight clearances to Everett Terminal via the Eastern Route and Everett Jct. freight turnouts. It is now tall enough for industry-standard Plate F (17 ft. tall) freight cars sourced via the Lowell Line and BET...up from its prior Plate E (15'9") rating.

This means New England Produce @ Everett can at long last take standard-size fridge cars for its wholesale produce. Their rail volumes have been fast declining because of national scarcity of the obsolete old shrunken-height fridge cars they were forced to take. This should enable an immediate reversal of fortunes, which is good for supermarket fruits/veggies long-term price stability in Eastern MA. Also may attract other signees to the Terminal, and sweeten the pot a little bit on Pan Am's sale price re: Port of Boston prospects.


If the Eastern Route is electrified per the Rail Vision they'd have to undercut the mainline trackbed under the Sullivan overpasses by +1.5 ft., or 19'6" total for Plate F cars under 25 kV wires. Not a big production...probably the stuff of 1 weekend shutdown and several days of staging for the shave-down, requiring no physical touches to the bridges themselves
 

johnmcboston

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Under the radar...

Apparently while working on the rehab of the Yard 21 tracks next to Sullivan, Keolis crews did some under-bridge pipe relocation on one or more of the Cambridge St./Maffa Way/Mystic Ave. overpasses to increase freight clearances to Everett Terminal via the Eastern Route and Everett Jct. freight turnouts. It is now tall enough for industry-standard Plate F (17 ft. tall) freight cars sourced via the Lowell Line and BET...up from its prior Plate E (15'9") rating.

This means New England Produce @ Everett can at long last take standard-size fridge cars for its wholesale produce. Their rail volumes have been fast declining because of national scarcity of the obsolete old shrunken-height fridge cars they were forced to take. This should enable an immediate reversal of fortunes, which is good for supermarket fruits/veggies long-term price stability in Eastern MA. Also may attract other signees to the Terminal, and sweeten the pot a little bit on Pan Am's sale price re: Port of Boston prospects.


If the Eastern Route is electrified per the Rail Vision they'd have to undercut the mainline trackbed under the Sullivan overpasses by +1.5 ft., or 19'6" total for Plate F cars under 25 kV wires. Not a big production...probably the stuff of 1 weekend shutdown and several days of staging for the shave-down, requiring no physical touches to the bridges themselves

Always the perpetual rumors of rail returning to the Charlestown autoport?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Always the perpetual rumors of rail returning to the Charlestown autoport?
Autoport can't take industry-standard tri-level autoracks, which are 19'2" tall. Can't get any closer to Boston than Ayer at those clearances. Bi-level racks, which do fit on the Lowell Line, are nearly extinct nationwide so there's no way to concentrate enough of those cars to meaningfully serve the Autoport. So that will not be driving any return to service of the Mystic Wharf Branch.

Boston Autoport mostly distributes locally in Metro Boston, though. Pan Am Southern's Ayer autoport and CSX East Brookfield autoport collect lion's share of the long-distance car deliveries, and P&W delivers racks to Ayer straight off the boat from Quonset Point, RI...so we've got good wholesale auto distribution lanes in New England already. Boston Autoport is more a complementary puzzle piece with hyper-focused local distribution.


Mystic Wharf reactivation probably comes via the cement plant not far down from Scraffts...a customer Pan Am's shit customer service scared off 20 years ago but who would probably eagerly come back under a new regime. Couple other buildings next to the port also ripe for rail marketing, with tales of occasional passing interest from prospective tenants. Massport long-range wants to carve out some niche at Moran for specialty loading...as the easternmost ship docks are on the Harbor side of the Tobin and height-unrestricted. This would suit certain jobs like, say, unloading wind turbine parts for some future offshore wind farm...amongst other possibilities. That would reactivate the street-running track through the vast asphalt expanse of the Autoport's lots...but it wouldn't be for serving Autoport biz at all.
 

Wash

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MassDot's "Industrial Rail Access Program", which in their words "Is a competitive state-funded public/private partnership program that provides financial assistance to eligible applicants to invest in industry-based rail infrastructure access improvement projects," just announced the 2021 recipients of grant funding. A link to a list of grant recipients is appended to this post.

Possibly the most interesting grant recipient this time around is...The city of Lawrence, which will use its $356,670 to rehab the Lowell Hill industrial track that runs from Lawrence yard to the Lawrence Industrial park (Look on Google Maps for the concentration of industry near the Lawrence Boy's and Girls club). Unlike the rest of these grants, which really only provide service to one customer, this track rehab has the potential to add multiple customers in one fell swoop.

This kind of program may seem un-sexy and could probably do with further expansion, but little differences add up over time. It also seems like a model for other state- (or even federal)-level programs that aim to increase rail's freight mode share and get trucks off the roads.

 

Arlington

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Hey, Mods, what's a photo from Philly doing in here? (Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1871) ;-)
In addition to geeking out directly on steampunk details, we can also geek out on the photo process itself, which is a Woodburytype (a crazy mashup of gelatin, lead and intaglio)--the earliest process that could capture middle tone shades.
 
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brazile

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Hey, Mods, what's a photo from Philly doing in here? (Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1871) ;-)
In addition to geeking out directly on steampunk details, we can also geek out on the photo process itself, which is a Woodburytype (a crazy mashup of gelatin, lead and intaglio)--the earliest process that could capture middle tone shades.
"Mashup" being an important point: they require an industrial-scale press to make. Gelatin is tough stuff!
 

GP40MC

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MassDot's "Industrial Rail Access Program", which in their words "Is a competitive state-funded public/private partnership program that provides financial assistance to eligible applicants to invest in industry-based rail infrastructure access improvement projects," just announced the 2021 recipients of grant funding. A link to a list of grant recipients is appended to this post.

Possibly the most interesting grant recipient this time around is...The city of Lawrence, which will use its $356,670 to rehab the Lowell Hill industrial track that runs from Lawrence yard to the Lawrence Industrial park (Look on Google Maps for the concentration of industry near the Lawrence Boy's and Girls club). Unlike the rest of these grants, which really only provide service to one customer, this track rehab has the potential to add multiple customers in one fell swoop.

This kind of program may seem un-sexy and could probably do with further expansion, but little differences add up over time. It also seems like a model for other state- (or even federal)-level programs that aim to increase rail's freight mode share and get trucks off the roads.

There are rumors of a new customer coming to this branch..
 

Tallguy

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Under the radar...

Apparently while working on the rehab of the Yard 21 tracks next to Sullivan, Keolis crews did some under-bridge pipe relocation on one or more of the Cambridge St./Maffa Way/Mystic Ave. overpasses to increase freight clearances to Everett Terminal via the Eastern Route and Everett Jct. freight turnouts. It is now tall enough for industry-standard Plate F (17 ft. tall) freight cars sourced via the Lowell Line and BET...up from its prior Plate E (15'9") rating.

This means New England Produce @ Everett can at long last take standard-size fridge cars for its wholesale produce. Their rail volumes have been fast declining because of national scarcity of the obsolete old shrunken-height fridge cars they were forced to take. This should enable an immediate reversal of fortunes, which is good for supermarket fruits/veggies long-term price stability in Eastern MA. Also may attract other signees to the Terminal, and sweeten the pot a little bit on Pan Am's sale price re: Port of Boston prospects.


If the Eastern Route is electrified per the Rail Vision they'd have to undercut the mainline trackbed under the Sullivan overpasses by +1.5 ft., or 19'6" total for Plate F cars under 25 kV wires. Not a big production...probably the stuff of 1 weekend shutdown and several days of staging for the shave-down, requiring no physical touches to the bridges themselves
So, the T is planning on high platforms in Winchester that, word has it, would preclude freight, hence the move of the gravel run to the WR. How true this is, I am unclear.
 

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