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F-Line to Dudley

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Just thinking out load here . . .

A lot of new passenger cars are wider in the middle (like 10 6") and need to narrow at the platform level due to the platform clearance issue. Would there be a way to simply add a (6 inch?) permanent gap filler just below the doors that doesn't need to be withdrawn and build platforms (6 inches?) further from the track center?

Trying to visualize this, I think it could be done easily by simply making the trap drop-down hatch longer. Note the picture of the Viewliner "coach" below. There is a big difference due to the camber of the car side.

I can't see much of a clearance issue since the thing wouldn't stick out much further than the actual widest part of the car, and even if things had to be cleared there can't be that many issues. A new standard regulation needs to be developed but it seems like it just might settle this issue.

I know someone is going to say that it's a safety issue since someone might get hit by it, but no one should be standing 6 inches from a moving train anyway.
No...that wouldn't be possible. All railcars are classified by the AAR standards organization by type and are stamped with multi-digit codes on the side for dimensional and weight properties. This is because the entire North American rail network--U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Panama Canal Zone (via ship-to-rail carfloat)--is standardized for NAFTA and assumes that any car will be able to move anywhere across the continental network by traveling routes that meet/exceed the properties of those code-stamped dimensional specs. The line-rating matchups are also inclusive of non-platform clearance obstructions like bridge guardrails, signal head placement, and undercarriage obstructions like third rail. As well as crucially the weight, as right now the North American network is fragmented mid-transition between lines certified for new-standard 286,000 lb. railcars vs. old-standard 263,000 lb. railcars.

The codes allow a carrier to get handed a manifest of the cars they're receiving, cross-ref the codes on the sides of cars with the codes their designated route is certified for, and be able to tell right a way if a mis-routed overdimension car has to be pulled & rejected. It's why mis-routing whoopsies like this are incredibly rare vs. the thousands of daily train schedules over hundreds of thousands of route miles across the continent. It also allows for planning special-order overdimension jobs that are the rail equivalent of special-order Interstate Highway wide-loads...stuff that overspills so big it's in true "rules of road" violation and needs special hands-on escorts to move at all. That's most often seen with moves of giant electrical transformers, where the pupose-built flatcar itself has rollers on it to stop for manual-shifting the transformer load to hang off one side of the car when it encounters a side obstruction. They've actually routed a big-ass transformer all the way down the Plymouth Line--full-highs and all--during a Sunday shutdown about 15 years ago during a slow-speed pre-planned special escort move. They could plan it--and all the individual adjustments they had to make to the transformer load's lateral placement en route--because all line features were coded and cross-reffed with the codes for that special-order load-shifting flatcar.


As you can see on the provided link at top of post, passenger cars are included in the coding scheme as well. This is because when they're sent out for offsite repair or sold/traded they're manifested on normal freight trains. Also...while not a feature today excluding the one-of-a-kind Amtrak AutoTrain...up until the private-to-Amtrak handoff of the early-1970's there were such things as regular-service mixed pax/freight trains, plus Amtrak used to carry the mail from D.C. to Boston on NEC or Inland Northeast Regionals until they formally got out of that business in 2004 and sold off their mail boxcar fleet. Most passenger cars are smaller enough than the average freight car that coding mismatches are never an issue, but at 16'2" tall Amtrak Superliners are Plate E's that you wouldn't, for instance, be able to squeeze under Memorial Drive on the Grand Junction so are something less-than-universal even for non-revenue physical moves (nevermind that the low-only boarding doors make them useless for revenue service in some parts of the country). Some rare exceptions like the Rocky Mountaineer's Ultra Dome lounge cars are 18 ft. tall, slotting them in the same Plate F+ category as autoracks. All Plate F or greater passenger cars are thus 8-inch boarding only because of the lateral suspension issues in passing 48-inch gapless platforms error-free.


Because this is all internationally standardized it's not possible to kludge side-hanging doodads that go outside the coded clearance properties for that car. It would require a higher/less-inclusive code just like a freight car that has door handles or grab bars pushing out the envelope. An Amfleet tube, being an odd duck smaller-by-shape than the envelope (like a tank car) might be able to get away with that kind of appendage. But nearly all pax cars have flat sides or buff out to the full clearance envelope, meaning they can't wear such a mechanism within compliance. The only place to stuff a bridge plate would be under the door lip. In the case of the actual Siemens cars with flip-down gap fillers used by Brightline/Amtrak Midwest/VIA the fillers come from inside the door and flip down to touch the resting platform surface because shooting straight out the side would uselessly bang the side of the platform; it has to come from an upward not side angle to touch cleanly. That's why shoot-out bridge plates are only a feature you'll ever see on low-boarding cars like buses, trolleys, or 8-inch platform -only cars like the Superliners, BLV's, Chicago-style gallery cars.

In short...if you want to go mad-scientist with onboard gap fillers you're going to have to memorize the AAR clearance book for what is/isn't kosher. A lot of the stuff that looks plausible to the eye test indeed gets cut down by not being portable across enough of the network to matter. In which case even FRA dimensional exemptions aren't a good idea because you'll pay too much of a unit price premium for the mfg. scale penalty of the unorthodox dimension rating vs. something any old buyer on a "conventionally" rated part of the network could evaluate. For one...because that's also going to limit what freight manifests you're allowed to attach the modded cars to for factory delivery or to get sent out for repairs. So it's a very much a "dollar$ and $sense" consideration to square as much or more than "is it physically possible with the right exemptions" brain-teaser.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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In a move 8 years in the making, Grafton & Upton RR will formally take over the Milford Branch freight franchise from CSX with a first run from Hopedale to Franklin scheduled for Monday. They'll be running 2x a week as far south as Garelick Farms immediately next-door to Forge Park Station (just out of view outbound from the platform).

So far no sojurns directly into Commuter Rail territory scheduled, as Franklin Paint Co. on the Franklin Industrial Track only gets spotted a tank car maybe twice per year so Garelick will be the last stop vast majority of the time unless/until G&U acquires new industrial space further inbound for a long-desired 495/Franklin truck transload facility. G&U's new hand-me-down locomotive fleet from CSX has cab signals and PTC, and with their rainy-day T trackage rights they are allowed to run as far north as the CSX yard @ Walpole Jct. should that ever be required of them (though that would probably only happen if something disrupted their main North Grafton interchange on the Worcester Line).
 

Stlin

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Having read through the attached documents, the last one is by far the most relevant, with 301684 basically being the catch all incorporating all others by reference.

My read of them is as follows, and please correct me if I'm wrong:

NS and CSX have fundamentally come to an agreement by which NS will not contest and instead support before the STB. (this is probably the source of the delay) This agreement consists of 2 parts:
a) NS will aquire trackage rights to Ayer via Worcester in several parts, from 4 different railroads - P&W, PAR, PAS and CSX, each requiring its own related filing.

b) CSX and NS agree that the PAS trackage will continue to be operated independently, operating rights granted to the Pittsburg & Shawmut RR, dba the Berkshire & Eastern RR, a GW subsidiary paper RR, replacing Pan Am/Springfield Terminal operations over it's trackage.

c) Substantial improvements to Ayer Yard by CSX, NS will fund double stack clearances on the B&M trackage south, and Ayer Yard adjacent traffic and operations specifics. Combined with above trackage rights, This alternative routing would allow NS to avoid the Patriot and the Hoosac on its way to Ayer.

Overall, this is alleged to be a minor transaction as structured with nominal impacts to customers access to competitive independent RRs as G&W/B&E takes up the generally duplicative route. 3 customers will be limited to G&W affiliates, all others would retain an equal number of choices.
there are two rail shippers and a shortline railroad that currently are served by both PAS and a carrier that is part of the GWI corporate family, CSXT and NSR, as owners of PAS, have agreed to price and haulage concessions for those shippers and the shortline railroad that will preserve existing competitive options.
Ngl, as presented, I actually think it's quite an elegant solution to the issue at hand. G&W gets to play, (for a single dollar!) NS is kept happy, CSX gets what it actually wanted from PAR, and at least as presented, no real change to the competitive environment.

Also, skimming through the supporting notes; I think a lot of the language is boilerplate supplied by CSX attorneys - every single one contains the same two paragraphs.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Quick thoughts:

  • The trackage rights deal to run Norfolk Southern double-stacks on the B&A pretty much flip-flops the freight upgrades priority order for Southern New England. The Patriot Corridor + Hoosac Tunnel (until now the presumptive next-in-line for double-stack upgrades) will no longer be getting it. And the Western Route + Worcester-Andover connecting legs are now five-alarm urgencies. This is probably all related to the Hoosac Tunnel's poor condition and the inherent rock instability of it crossing the water table umpteen times, which led to 2019's roof collapse. As previously mentioned, it was a longstanding rumor that B&M then Pan Am could not get standard-rate RR insurance for the tunnel and were basically carrying all financial risk for its state-of-repair on their own backs, which surely would've complicated the effort to enlarge it +1 ft. for double-stack vertical clearance.

  • G&W is now the largest by route-mile carrier in New England when you lump together the combined mileage of Providence & Worcester (Worcester-New London-NYC, all of RI, largest share of CT), New England Central (Canadian border-New London), St. Lawrence & Atlantic (Montreal-Auburn, ME), Connecticut Southern (Springfield Line), and now the Patriot Corridor with its gigantic East Deerfield yard barely a couple miles off the junction with NECR. They are now kings-of-alliancing in the region. It was thought, because PAR was longtime at-war with G&W, that "anybody but them" was going to be the chosen mercenary operator of Pan Am Southern...such that the rumor the last several weeks was New York Susquehanna & Western being brought in from out-of-region to do it instead. G&W played its chess pieces perfectly here. And will still have a lucrative encore move to make hashing out deals with CSX out of Portland for its double-stack Montreal lane via St. Lawrence & Atlantic.
Next-largest regional player Vermont Rail System, which is allianced with G&W for the "Canadian Gateway" routing Canadian Pacific traffic out of upstate NY via Rutland & Bellows Falls then down NECR/P&W to Willimantic & Worcester...also sees its portfolio significantly enriched by now being able to cut deals with G&W via the lower Western Corridor to North Bennington, VT and Hoosick Falls, NY to Albany or Ayer via PAS building off some of the same alliances. Coincidentally-but-not-coincidentally, VRS in 2020 implanted itself in New Hampshire with a buy of New England Southern's north-of-Concord trackage rights...a curious transaction at the time. Well...CSX is going to want nothing to do with operating the Nashua locals and will be looking for an outsource partner for Central NH so they can strip back to just the Nashua Yard feeder jobs out of East Deerfield and Lawrence. Who's now sitting in-place to pick up those spoils?...VRS, of course. Who'll be handing off those East Deerfield-Nashua feeders at Ayer to CSX...new Patriot Corridor overseer G&W. Suddenly that cents-on-a-quarter Central NH pickup last year is looking like an awfully strategic gain for VRS. And as smoke for that fire, a Bennington, NH paper mill on the Hillsboro Branch that hasn't received PAR service since the mid-80's--sitting on trackage that is shoe-fit for VRS to operate on outsource--filed a support statement with the STB for this transaction. Hmmm.​
We haven't even gotten to the tertiary-outflow alliancing deals, like how G&W is going to leverage the Portland-Montreal lane or how J.D. Irving is going to play kingmaker between Northern Maine and the Canadian Maritime ports pitting CSX, Canadian Pacific, and Canadian National against each other for the best deal.​
  • The Worcester Main between Union Station and Ayer Station is now a *real* mainline again. Full top-down rebuild, Class 3 (40 MPH freight/60 MPH pax), double-track, signal system, +1 ft. clearance increase...the works, if it's going to handle the entirety of Portland traffic, NS double-stack trackage rights, and linkage for G&W between the Ayer intermodal and autoport yards they'll be running for the Patriot Corridor with the P&W yards in Worcester. And those upgrades will have to happen F-A-S-T once the transaction is cleared. Also means Gardner Yard and the P&W Gardner Branch are likely to get shut down (the branch no consequential loss since it's redundant, highly rural, and points away from Boston at both junctions). And commuter rail will see some lesser congestion between Ayer and Wachusett from P&W autorack jobs being sent straight to Ayer instead of being subject to a daily Ayer-Gardner 'fetch' job that's slowed down by the punishing grades out there. Clinton Jct. with the CSX Fitchburg Secondary also becomes a reanimation candidate since it may be easier for CSX to stage its Framingham-Leominster daily in halves with Clinton as a bailout valve. Not coincidentally CSX made quite the splash in 2019-20 with new customer sign-ons on the Leominster end of the line (which prior to that you would've called an abandonment-in-wait), and spending a curious amount of coin upgrading rail/ties/crossings on that otherwise podunk branch.
You will also likely see Barbers Yard--the long mile-linear ex-PAR yard in Worcester on the WB shoulder of the I-290 embankment north of Downtown mothballed in the early-90's--get reanimated as somebody (CSX or G&W) is going to need more yard space pronto. It is thankfully in the perfectly least-disruptive part of Worcester with perfectly greatest highway access to be doing newfound heavy-duty switching, and with Ayer intermodal yard being tapped out for space either G&W is going to need it for expansion outside of current Southbridge St. Yard or CSX is going to need it as a northside locals-staging yard apart from Framingham. Right now it sits G&W-owned trackage north of Union Station that PAR sold to P&W in the 80's, but PAR has 'squatter's-rights' reactivation dibs on it...so it could go to either carrier once they hash out agreements. That will be big for City of Worcester's economy, as CSX Intermodal + the P&W yards at Southbridge St. headquarters and down by 146 are already huge economic drivers and Barbers...while very width-narrow in orientation...is just as large by acreage as the others for whoever wants to make optimal use of it.​
  • Immediate passenger impacts:
    • Already acknowledged in the filing that the Downeaster is getting Positive Train Control because of CSX being a Class I freight carrier. NNEPRA/MBTA will have to insert themselves with $$$ to make sure that the PTC system installed is the same cab signals + Amtrak ACSES passenger system used elsewhere on the northside rather than CSX's freight-optimized I-ETMS system, for simplicity reasons. But the requirement of *a* PTC system being installed before the Downeaster can have a 6th round-trip added (5 being the legal limit sans PTC) has now been serendipitously auto-filled without NNEPRA having to lift a finger. Great news!
    • The Berkshire Flyer or whatever the East-West Study was calling the North Station-North Adams seasonal train just sustained a mortal blow, because the downgrading of the Patriot Corridor means speeds won't be appreciably freight-upgraded west of Wachusett to make that run possible at acceptable cost. NS no longer cares if speeds don't top 25 MPH freight/35 MPH pax on the corridor, whereas if that was going to be *the* double-stack route to Worcester County for them they'd have been investing in 40 MPH freight/60 MPH passenger sooner than later. It was an extremely marginal passenger proposal to begin with, part of East-West's trolling effort to confuse things from the prior NNEIRI Study, as North Adams still would've been slower on a direct out of North Station than going L-shaped B&A to Springfield + Conn River Line to Greenfield + Patriot Corridor to North Adams had they implemented the full slate of Springfield Hub recs from NNEIRI. So beware that the whole proposal pretty much rested on a mountain of BS. Now I guess as they try haltingly to "DIG UP, STUPID!" from the E-W mess you're going to have to see lots more bus connection elbow grease out of Pittsfield or Springfield for attempting to include North Adams. Freight economics have now thoroughly put their finger on the scale against that flyweight Flyer scheme.
    • B&A upgrades urgency escalates another tick with NS's presence. Passenger advocates don't have to worry much about increases in freight congestion because NS only adds 1 extra round-trip to the existing mix. But they'll be stopping at gigantic CSX West Springfield Yard as an interchange point for G&W's new stewardship of PAS assets on the Conn River + Connecticut, which means MassDOT has ever more lucrative bartering leverage with CSX to trade enhanced truck clearances (and skewing of truck routes away from residential throroughfares in the process) for passenger permissions on the B&A. Had East-West not laid complete waste to once-straightforward plans with its trollolol self-tanking, NOW would be the most ideal time ever to hit the ground running on the prior NNEIRI/Springfield Hub specs. Oops! Maybe that attempt at eleven-dimensional self-tanking chess wasn't such a great idea, Charlie. If there's any gumption to retool around a saner mission statement and heal the wreckage E-W caused, now's the time. Let's see if Pollack's successor is up to it.
 
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GP40MC

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The only thing I wonder about the Ayer/Worcester upgrade is the state's interest in the reservoir at W.Boylston? (Despite the obvious track upgrades to come) If I remember, they especially concerned after a certain derailment involving dirty dirt cars.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The only thing I wonder about the Ayer/Worcester upgrade is the state's interest in the reservoir at W.Boylston? (Despite the obvious track upgrades to come) If I remember, they especially concerned after a certain derailment involving dirty dirt cars.
Part of the reason why MassDOT had a M.O.U. (wonder if that's going to be torn up now???) to buy the line despite its bare-minimal passenger interest was because it would give them the authority to slap a 10 MPH speed restriction on the shores of the Reservoir. Which, so long as Pan Am FAILroad was going to be operating the line, was considered the "safest" outcome.

Now that this is going to be carrying some heavy-ass duty time-critical traffic for 2 or most-likely 3 carriers, they can probably pivot away from control-via-lowest-common-denominator slowdowns and actually engineer a protective solution that does the job. The haste with which they're going to have to upgrade those 25+ miles straight from the roadpack's substrate right to the top *with* new traffic control signaling means the Fed's coffers are going to bust wide open with newfound funding grant opportunities. Which probably means they can shoot higher-tech on the Reservoir shores with designing real spill-protection catchbasins and whatnot instead of (sadly...correctly) defaulting to "PAR will never give enough shits to amortize that investment with revenue generation, so let's just punitively slow them down instead from lack of better aspirational options." Tackling the environmental sensitivity of the route abutting all of Metro Boston's drinking water supply was never a technical challenge. Waaaaay more environmentally delicate areas are traversed safely by all manner of HAZMAT trains in this country on a daily basis; they just happen to be on give-a-shit Class I carrier trackage where the business upholding the environmental protection investment gets taken seriously by all parties...unlike Timmy Mellon's private Rando ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ bubble. The hurdle was way more about the ROI challenge that Pan Am would never arse itself to live up to...but the combined forces of CSX+NS+G&W damn sure will.
 

RandomWalk

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I assume the Hoosac Tunnel is on a slow glide path to eventual closure.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I assume the Hoosac Tunnel is on a slow glide path to eventual closure.
Not necessarily. NS still owns it, and if they get out of their current cut-cut-cut internal turmoil and see the need they can take back the franchise from G&W in exactly the same way they always had the option to from PAR: by buying out the other 50% share of the joint venture and self-owning. They still, after all, are the primary profit-takers at Ayer Intermodal & Autoport yards, their main profit center and growth vector for New England.

However, it's going to be a big slog to step up to competitive parity in Worcester County because their starting spot is so cosmically far behind CSX. And they were saddled with having to work through PAR to boot. NS still wants to achieve a greater measure of competitive parity in Worcester County with CSX. It's an easier vector to take the B&A overhead rights now when that growth can be crammed onto one round-trip that simply runs longer/taller/faster from Albany than before. But eventually they're going to need more trains if parity is the goal (#1 CSX running a lot more IM trains), and that's going to have them scraping the ceiling of the allowances of their B&A rights and butting heads with CSX dispatch. In the meantime, because they still own 50% of the Patriot Corridor that's where the G&W partnership offers a relief valve: less time-sensitive stuff and all manner of non- cube-stacked railcars (tankers, boxcars, centerbeams, autoracks) can still trawl the Patriot Corridor. And despite there being a relaxing of urgency on speed upgrades such that they'll only be going 25 instead of 40...G&W running a way tighter ship than PAR "slop-ops" means they'll be able to market better clock regularity all the same and still tap the Patriot Corridor for a whole lot of immediate and long-lasting growth.

It punts out by maybe 15 years the decision to buy the Patriot Corridor whole-hog and whole-hog upgrade it to get some concessions in the deal that satisfy immediate growth from a small starting spot. But if Norfolk Southern remains serious about competitive parity, eventually that won't be enough: they'll need to run more trains of stacks than CSX dispatch will give them on the B&A, and need to run them faster than the 25 MPH G&W will be handling all else across the Patriot Corridor. So the end goal ends up much the same...they just get to plot it with attractively fewer "loss-leader" years up-front on the ultimate investment, because the revenue generation won't have as far from behind to catch up from on the ROI vs. now. That's a win-win from NS's standpoint, and doesn't signal any sort of long-term retreat (quite the opposite).

The Hoosac is a maintenance P.I.T.A., no doubt. But it was not because of feasibility of running mission-critical IM trains through there; that's already been established down to exact price point. NS just sees that price point as more palatable 20 years from now when their biz base in Ayer is several orders of magnitude higher than today and East Deerfield is riper than today for upgrading into a 1:1 competitor to CSX West Springfield for the I-91 corridor. They'd be sucking up too many loss-leader years paying ahead to upgrade then waiting for the biz increases to backfill rather than buying themselves some attractive extra time to build up a biz headwind. That's really all this is: buying extra time so the ultimate Pat Corridor upgrades can dovetail with the biz increases instead of pre-dating them 20 years.

In the meantime, they're dancing in the streets of Darien, CT at G&W headquarters. Doesn't matter if they're only a short-time steward...this is the biggest growth opportunity to ever fall on their laps. If/when NS does buy the whole-shebang for themselves, G&W will have grown NECR+P&W+CSOR so many leaps-and-bounds that the Pat Corridor will be printing them money hand-over-fist. And then they get to look forward to getting relieved of the cost/labor of having to deliver things to themselves and get their newly-entrenched local biz gift-wrapped to them in Ayer & East Deerfield by NS when they take over. Win-win-win!


This was an extremely difficult deal to craft in a way that would alleviate any competitive concerns from other carriers that could've resulted in potentially fatal counter-filings to the STB. Somehow they managed to come up with a solution that made everyone--the Class I national carriers, the regional carriers and alliance-makers, the state DOT's, and the customers--happy. And leave a map full of growth vectors across the board, even if the urgency of what gets upgraded in what sequence gets turned on its head somewhat. That's a pretty mean feat. All told, the deeper I read into this the more there is to like and the less there is to potentially dislike. Very few downsides here, and a whole lot of benefits spread around in unusually equitable fashion. This is very likely to be a massive economic turning point for the region with coattails lasting decades.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Visual explainer:


...is coming to Maine, New Hampshire, and MBTA northside.

----------------------------------------


...is basically staying put, content to watch how things develop before making any subsequent moves. But also managed to deftly bully its way into a free trip through Worcester 1-2 times per day from now on.

----------------------------------------


...is going to get lots more numerous across the MA 2 corridor, though it may be wearing up to 4 different names on that logo when it appears.

----------------------------------------

+

...are scheming on how to take advantage of this via alliancing, while...

...angles to play the spoiler.

----------------------------------------

But mostly, these guys are no more:

+

Ding-dong the Witch is dead!!!
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Besides VTR coming out guns blazing, Massachusetts and M-Dot has brought up the Wachusett Reservior issue plus a list of "wants" :

Parsing the RR.net thread consensus by the industry experts, Vermont Rail System's (VTR/VRS) filing seems to be an unforced error on their part. They requested expediting the sale review to higher level of fed oversight (which should gum up an already slow process by a few more months), but did not advocate for any type of competitive compensation. Their beef is that other than their Whitehall, NY interchange with Canadian Pacific their system is surrounded on all sides by G&W, who have open flank for screwing them with rate increases. Valid beef. However, they could've requested fixed-cost trackage rights on G&W to interchange with CSX directly at West Springfield, Palmer, or Worcester...and asked for trackage rights from Hoosick Falls, NY to Mechanicville and/or Mohawk Yards to hit Norfolk Southern without a middle man...and they didn't. That's going to royally piss off CSX that they couldn't nip that detail in the bud pre-sale and now such arrangements have to get slugged out in the public eye, where chaos effects could result in additional pile-ons. Pissing off CSX is not a favorable outcome for VRS, because they just bought the system-isolated New England Southern shortline that runs north of Concord, NH on speculation that CSX was going to want out of running the Nashua locals north and west of Nashua Yard and sublet those out to VRS's new Granite State toy. If CSX is feeling vindictive because VRS chose the most abrasive way possible to run their objection through the process, they might hold onto Nashua-Concord and Nashua-Wilton out of spite. Spite being something that CSX Corporate has historically *willingly* engaged in when faced with an irritating partner.

I don't have enough insider knowledge to know what to make of that theory. It does seem awfully odd that they're throwing an objection without telegraphing what concessions they want. Their filing is not big enough to hold up the sale and they know that, so it's strange they aren't pointing towards their idea of a satisfying resolution. Discount trackage rights through MA would be outright good for VRS and outright good for the state, but by throwing a snit VRS made it a bit less likely they're going to get it...or get it on the routes they ideally want it. Hence some "WTF?" reaction to the lack of any leading-towards-resolution statement in their filing. We'll have to see if the overexuberence bites them in the ass or not.


As for Wachusett...yeah, predictable. State's got leverage to flex there, so they're going to head up their "wants" list with it. I doubt the line's going to be slapped with a forever 10 MPH restriction around the reservoir shores if CSX/G&W/NS fund full-engineered spill control along the ROW as part of its re-upgrade into heavy-duty mainline. Just means the state wants some leverage to ply in case the freight parties try to squeeze costs by half-assing the job.

EDIT: State's not going to fare well on trying to restrict freight traffic in MBTA territory. There's no restrictions whatsoever on PAR for doing that, as they're indemnified with free-as-in-beer trackage rights allowances + dispatch control of the mainline in the 1976 B&M-to-MBTA asset sale. If CSX wants to increase Worcester-Portland traffic on the Fitchburg + Haverhill Line overlaps...they can do it as much as they please. This hasn't been an issue as traffic across the Commuter Rail system has whittled way, way down (no regular/non-GLX diversion freights scheduled inbound of Willows Jct. in Ayer on the Fitchburg or inbound of Wilmington Jct. on the Western...*pittance* of Salem/Peabody traffic vs. the old days, sharp decline in Lowell Line traffic). And CSX runs a way tighter and more punctual ship than PAR, so freight v. passenger interference is likely to get better post-sale and volume increases are likely to be crammed longer/taller onto the same schedules rather than require new slots. So that verbiage in MassDOT's filing was a whole lot of overblown alarmism...not to mention extremely easily batted away on the legalities.

Same lawyer for VRS and MassDOT on the filings...so methinks the legalese isn't informed by the utmost industry knowledge the way it's written and seems to be engaging in a lot of button-pushing.
 
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fatnoah

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. They requested expediting the sale review to higher level of fed oversight (which should gum up an already slow process by a few more months), but did not advocate for any type of competitive compensation.
A poster in another forum mentioned that considering this a "minor" transaction would mean that the STB agrees the public benefit of the transaction outweights any possible anti-competitive issues. By elevating to a "significant" transaction, the STB would be acknowledging that there are anti-competition issues to address, which it may do so through mandating trackage rights or similar means. Ultimately, I think trackage rights or other concessions are the goal, and it's possible they did ask for those rights and were denied or not given favorable terms. By forcing the issue, they may hope to force the issue and put CSX/GWI in the position of getting something more favorable to VRS or risk STB mandating something even more favorable to VRS.


Separately, I literally laughed out loud at MassDOT request that CSX commit to no increase in freight service within MBTA territory while also providing as-good or better service to existing customers (some of whom are in MBTA territory).


EDIT: In CSX's STB filing from yesterday, I see that they're telling VRS and VTrans to pound sand. https://dcms-external.s3.amazonaws.com/DCMS_External_PROD/1616157435792/301772.pdf

Initially, VRS and VTrans fundamentally misunderstand the B&E Transaction and its effects on competition between PAS and GWI-controlled railroads in the area. PAS will continue to exist as an independent railroad. NSR and CSXT (once the Proposed Transaction is consummated) will own PAS, and B&E will operate PAS on a contract basis. B&E will simply receive a fee from PAS for acting as the contract operator of PAS
B&E will be contractually obligated to operate in the interest of PAS, not in the interest of other GWI-owned railroads to the detriment of PAS. B&E’s contract will be subject to termination if B&E violates this fundamental term of the arrangement. The owners of PAS would not allow B&E to harm competition on the Connecticut River line or elsewhere, because doing so would be against their economic interest.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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A poster in another forum mentioned that considering this a "minor" transaction would mean that the STB agrees the public benefit of the transaction outweights any possible anti-competitive issues. By elevating to a "significant" transaction, the STB would be acknowledging that there are anti-competition issues to address, which it may do so through mandating trackage rights or similar means. Ultimately, I think trackage rights or other concessions are the goal, and it's possible they did ask for those rights and were denied or not given favorable terms. By forcing the issue, they may hope to force the issue and put CSX/GWI in the position of getting something more favorable to VRS or risk STB mandating something even more favorable to VRS.
But in similar vein, the STB historically gives broad consideration to business cites for exactly where the competitive harm would be. So much of their caselaw is built on offered case studies. And that's why VRS's unwillingness to name what the specific damage is and what compensation fixes it was read as an unforced error. Hand-waving at an anticompetitive boogeyman ususally does jack squat to sway the STB. However...the great fear of CSX going into this deal after NS's opening-salvo objection filing was that their biggest Class I rival would simply flood the Board with statistics and paralyze the process. As in: spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of hypothetical routings with zillions of pricing parameters to let the sheer quantity of bad statistical juju (much of it wholly manufactured) grind the process to a halt. Those types of tactics leave a mark. Hence, CSX moved heaven and earth to make sure NS was happy beforehand. Now VRS is calling the School Principal on everyone to jam up the process, but refuse to run the numbers interference game that gets results. On past precedent, they're less likely to get what they want in concessions because they're being willfully obtuse instead of "statistically" obtuse. And it's clear from CSX's salty reply that they stoked the billion-dollar behemoth's wrath in doing that.

Separately, I literally laughed out loud at MassDOT request that CSX commit to no increase in freight service within MBTA territory while also providing as-good or better service to existing customers (some of whom are in MBTA territory).
Yep. And because of the B&M firesale agreements, the state doesn't have a leg to stand on there. The inherited rights are infinitely permissive, and any attempt to try to reframe the legalese that the state willingly co-signed all those years ago is going to get batted away effortlessly. Again, they used the same lawyer as VRS. The VRS filing eschewed the numbers argument that has known traction with the STB, and MassDOT's is a whole lot of whataboutism where if they'd bother to read the original CSX filing bulleting out the business case for buying the Portland lane they'd know that CSX is seeking an efficiency gear that will never result in exploding numbers of scheduled freights in MBTA territory because that would be antithetical to the business plan. Hence, both parties may have hired a law office that's in over its head at knowing the basic rules of engagement for an STB case.


Not that MassDOT has much to gain/lose other than temporarily makes themselves look silly. VRS...eh, if CSX wants to punish them for their obtuseness they have many avenues to bring the pain. We'll see if the seemingly poor aim on the challenge comes back to haunt the Vermonters.
 

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Holy merger mania. Canadian Pacific shelling out $29B to buy Kansas City Southern...the first Class I-on-Class I merger since CSX and Norfolk Southern divvied up Conrail 22 years ago. Will create the first trans-NAFTA railroad, as CP goes coast-to-coast across Canada and KCS goes Great Lakes to Southern Mexico (incl. megaport of Cardenas)...systems joining together in Chicagoland.



Yes...this affects us bigly in New England. CP is one of the behemoths with a presence in Albany where most New England volumes originate, and they recently re-bought their way into Bangor, ME to alliance their way into favorable Port of St. John access. This move would lend some credence to CSX's to-date hazy reasons for wanting to slug it out over Maine+Maritimes dominance.

This probably has decent chance of passing the STB, albeit at glacial pace fraught with many twists and turns. KCS, being one of the smallest of the Class I's, was the only one that didn't have onerous restrictions levied on it by the feds over who it could merge with. And Canadian Pacific, while very large-revenue due to its transcontinental (as opposed to half-continental) reach, is the most northern-confined of the Class I's with fewest U.S. track miles. So this was probably a merger that could only happen between these two. KCS has been on the block for awhile since they're awash in hedge fund money. Was thought that it would either be a deal like this or else they'd get completely bought out by the hedge funds.
 

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I assume the Hoosac Tunnel is on a slow glide path to eventual closure.
On this note--the tunnel has (not surprisingly) inspired some serious scholarly coverage going back several decades.

I got "turned on" to the engineering achievement it represents years back, when I drove the length of Route 2 for the first time, to hike Greylock, when I was living in Cambridge. I was riveted (as I'm sure many Route 2 motorists are) by what Route 2 does to traverse this terrain here, in the same general vicinity of the tunnel. (That hairpin curve appears to be no more than 2 miles from one of the tunnel's portals).

But now I just looked at the Wiki entry for the Hoosac Tunnel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoosac_Tunnel

196 fatalities over the course of its construction. Life sure was a lot cheaper back then, in the depths of the *Gilded Age*
 

BostonTrainGuy

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Holy merger mania. Canadian Pacific shelling out $29B to buy Kansas City Southern...the first Class I-on-Class I merger since CSX and Norfolk Southern divvied up Conrail 22 years ago. Will create the first trans-NAFTA railroad, as CP goes coast-to-coast across Canada and KCS goes Great Lakes to Southern Mexico (incl. megaport of Cardenas)...systems joining together in Chicagoland.



Yes...this affects us bigly in New England. CP is one of the behemoths with a presence in Albany where most New England volumes originate, and they recently re-bought their way into Bangor, ME to alliance their way into favorable Port of St. John access. This move would lend some credence to CSX's to-date hazy reasons for wanting to slug it out over Maine+Maritimes dominance.

This probably has decent chance of passing the STB, albeit at glacial pace fraught with many twists and turns. KCS, being one of the smallest of the Class I's, was the only one that didn't have onerous restrictions levied on it by the feds over who it could merge with. And Canadian Pacific, while very large-revenue due to its transcontinental (as opposed to half-continental) reach, is the most northern-confined of the Class I's with fewest U.S. track miles. So this was probably a merger that could only happen between these two. KCS has been on the block for awhile since they're awash in hedge fund money. Was thought that it would either be a deal like this or else they'd get completely bought out by the hedge funds.
Don't know who ended up with it (CSX or Mellon) but someone should sell the "Pan American Railways" name to these folks and have it actually mean something.
 

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On this note--the tunnel has (not surprisingly) inspired some serious scholarly coverage going back several decades.

I got "turned on" to the engineering achievement it represents years back, when I drove the length of Route 2 for the first time, to hike Greylock, when I was living in Cambridge. I was riveted (as I'm sure many Route 2 motorists are) by what Route 2 does to traverse this terrain here, in the same general vicinity of the tunnel. (That hairpin curve appears to be no more than 2 miles from one of the tunnel's portals).

But now I just looked at the Wiki entry for the Hoosac Tunnel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoosac_Tunnel

196 fatalities over the course of its construction. Life sure was a lot cheaper back then, in the depths of the *Gilded Age*
...and it almost was abandoned once. When Conrail was in the process of forming in the early-70's as a fed-bailout amalgamation of bankrupt freight RR's, bankrupt Boston & Maine had a standing invite to come join them. If they were included in the Final System Plan for the new combined RR, the B&A would've been the primary east-west freight lane necessitating immediate downsizing of the Fitchburg Main. It would've been abandoned on the customer-less Greenfield-North Adams portion that included the tunnel; the east leg would've terminated at the Conn River Line and the west leg would've terminated at the (then intact) Pittsfield & North Adams. Likely with the west leg being dished off to somebody else like Delaware & Hudson in the name of competition.

B&M rejected the invite, thinking it could reorganize itself successfully out of bankruptcy (which it did...becoming profitable again by end of the decade).
 

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