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Brattle Loop

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It seems you are advocating nationalization of the railroad system
It sounds as if Wash is advocating for the State of Maine to take public ownership of the Pan Am system (or at least the portion in Maine) which is essentially state-level "nationalization". I'm unaware of whether there are any such examples of state-owned freight service, though it is common for passenger service, though in some of Vermont and in other places (parts of Massachusetts for example) the actual tracks and railway infrastructure are state-owned and operated by commercial railroads under various forms of contracts.

Obviously your mileage may vary about the desirability of government ownership of railroads. Wash is correct that public ownership would allow the Maine government to tailor rail service and related policy decisions to best serve the government's overall purpose and desire (say, for example, offering extra discounts to shippers who switch from trucks, to further a policy of reduction in trucks on the roads). I for one am not a fan of the idea. I think Maine absolutely should endeavor to buy any track and infrastructure it might want or need for passenger service or that might be useful for freight service in the future but that is presently at risk of abandonment, but I don't think that the benefits of direct ownership and control would outweigh the significant costs in acquisition costs and maintenance and upgrades (though I could be convinced otherwise if the number-crunching came out favorably).

indicating free enterprise isn't working
I don't think that's necessarily the correct inference to draw. It's perfectly plausible (and I think likely) that CSX/Pan Am's commercial interest in the railroad may well diverge from the State of Maine's (actual or hypothetical) interests which relate to the railroad. CSX/Pan Am's interest is to use the railroad to make money. It seems in Wash's vision that goal is secondary to other purposes, which are legitimate for the state (reducing the railroad's income to net a decrease in trucks and therefore a more-efficient, lower-carbon transportation network is not an illegitimate goal, it's just not one that the railroad will pursue as a commercial venture because it's out-of-scope with their business). Ultimately though it is basically an ideological debate over the limits and purposes of free enterprise, which is out-of-scope for this discussion.

Your use of the term "the state" is chilling.
As referenced earlier, I think "the state" here is a literal reference to the State of Maine, who has and may have in the future various legitimate objectives which impact a railroad. For example, it's absolutely a legitimate objective for the State of Maine to have passenger rail service (hence the existence of the Downeaster) which conflicts with the objective of the commercial railroad in using the infrastructure to move freight. (Which is why I'm quite sure NNEPRA pays Pan Am for use of their track, but it's also the case that PAR has been reluctant to make necessary improvements for more Downeasters, and the state's objective would be better-served by them owning the relevant infrastructure. See also examples like the MBTA buying out CSX's ownership on the Worcester Line so that their passenger service would no longer take a back seat to CSX's freight operations. That was state-level "nationalization" by contract in essentially the same way as Wash appears to be proposing.) "The state" is not used here in some ideological, Big Brother, "the government can do no wrong" way (which would be chilling), so much as as a literal reference to the State of Maine, which shouldn't be chilling (unless you think the government shouldn't ever buy any railroad infrastructure whatsoever, but if that's the case, and it's a valid opinion to hold, the discussion can go no further.)
 

Arlington

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State ownership of railroads should be about as controversial as state ownership of toll roads: since it is not obvious either way, it is worth enough controversy to make flexible economic-political choices.

For a state like Maine that produces a lot of heavy stuff (spring water, potatoes, paper products, lumber, stone) it could definitely pay statewide dividends to make that stuff cheaper to ship and to keep its weight off the interstates and roads. I don’t know, but fast refrigerated seafood shipment might also be possible.

North Carolina has built and owned the NCRR since 1849 (10 passenger trans and 50+ freight trains per day) they subcontract freight ops to Norfolk Southern who’d operated it on a 99 year lease from 1896 to 1995

The Alaska Railroad (AlaskaRailroad.com) was Federally built and owned 1914 - 1985 until the State of Alaska bought it and operates both freight and passenger service. Seems to be the right local solution.

More recently and closer to home: Massachusetts bought the Conn River Line in 2014/5 and MassDOT facilitates a mix of passenger and freight (6? Passenger).
 
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BostonTrainGuy

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And Massachusetts bought the Housatonic and the Coltsville Spur for just over $13 Million. A Governor Deval Patrick passenger rail pipe dream since he has a summer home near the line. Easy to throw away money when it's not yours.
 

Arlington

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Despite the (possible) self dealing by the Governor, I’d argue the 7 million people of Mass are better off owning the decrepit Housatonic.

Since we are talking a decrepit line, It amounts to land banking it for $2 each, and not a bad price if it ends up as a rail trail. Continuous rights of way are hard to assemble and the State has a more flexible set of uses than the Housy did.

The pressure to upgrade to passenger speeds is where the public overspending usually happens, not the ROW purchase itself
 

Wash

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@Brattle Loop has already made most of the elaborations on my post that I was going to make, so: Thank you, kind stranger, for saving me a good half hour at the keyboard. Hats off.

A few further points:
It seems you are advocating nationalization of the railroad system, indicating free enterprise isn't working.
Actually, yes. I do think that free enterprise, in this specific case, is not working. Pan Am has let the track they own deteriorate to the point that 10 miles per hour is the top speed for a good chunk of their main line. They run their crews out of hours in the middle of nowhere, forcing trains to wait on the main line sometimes *days* for replacements, delaying everything behind them. How on earth are shippers supposed to depend on a service that can't guarantee their freight will be there within a *week* of when it's supposed to?

This poor management of invaluable assets hurts *everyone* in New England, not just those who ship by rail. It increases the cost of doing business here, forces more freight to travel by truck on our already congested highways, and forces state DOTs to pay outrageous sums of money improving track on which they run passenger trains. And that's just *existing* services; God help you if you're a *new* customer who wants to ship by rail.

State DOTs are also already spending millions of dollars bullying Pan Am into improving its network, and a good chunk of this money is disappearing into a black hole. Illinois and Michigan have spent millions of dollars and years of time improving track in their states to facilitate better passenger service, and they're still hauling around axle count cars because they can't get the railroads to upgrade their signaling systems to detect shorter trains. And they're dealing with big class 1 railroads, the kinds that are supposed to make good on their promises.

The fewer middlemen there are between the money for improvements and the improvements themselves the better. The states of Massachusetts and Maine are already spending butloads of money propping up Pan Am, whose assets will probably never be cheaper than they are now. Why not buy instead of continuing to rent?
 
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DBM

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This doesn't qualify as "news," but still seems worthy of posting: I've noticed many mornings, driving northbound on I-95 just south of Downtown Providence, where I-95 skirts the Providence seaport--i.e., a few hundred yards south of Mr. Nibbles Woodaway himself--a lovely Providence & Worcester locomotive.

Inspired, I Googled "Providence & Worcester railroad" this morning, and noticed a few things:

1.) I'm pretty sure the locomotive I keep seeing is one of these models. Again, very sharp-looking (if oddly reminiscent of the Cleveland Browns color scheme). Hard to think of a better advertisement for the company, than to have a locomotive parked there during morning rush hour alongside one of the busiest freeway stretches on the eastern seaboard.

2.) The Wiki page for the Providence & Worcester is surprisingly robust & detailed--I wouldn't have thought there'd be such a content-rich page for such a relatively small freight line...

3.) ... then again, I had no idea the Providence & Worcester had a footprint that extended so far beyond, well... Providence & Worcester.

4.) I realized the line has the distinction of having serviced the most famous industrial hub in the world--the Blackstone River Valley corridor. I mean, only one railway can assert that it facilitated the area which catalyzed the American Industrial Revolution--and it's these guys... that's pretty cool.

5.) Looks like the P&W services the Quonset deep-water port. Which means it is a footnote to the Most Important News Story Of Our Time--the one where noted celebrity d-bag Ernie Boch Jr. lost an extravagantly obnoxious uber-luxury vehicle when the car carrier bound for Quonset sank in the mid-Atlantic. That one hit hard.

6.) Most important--look at this! This will be perfect for my son's 5th-birthday party or some similar context. Railroad Video Productions, I salute you for having worked to orchestrate what I'm sure is an amazing cinematographic journey...
 

Stlin

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1.) I'm pretty sure the locomotive I keep seeing is one of these models. Again, very sharp-looking (if oddly reminiscent of the Cleveland Browns color scheme). Hard to think of a better advertisement for the company, than to have a locomotive parked there during morning rush hour alongside one of the busiest freeway stretches on the eastern seaboard.
The G&W (Genesee and Wyoming) the P&Ws parent holding company, has an annoying habit of obliterating the visual identity of their holdings. All logos redone into the G&W corporate style, liveries changed... (Did you notice that that G&W style logo wasn't for the Providence and Worcester? Oops.)

Based on your comment of Browns colors, I presume it was one of the legacy locos that haven't yet been repainted into G&W corporate colors, applied across all of their holdings. The old livery is clean and classic - The new one... Is distinctly garish.
 
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DBM

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Based on your comment of Browns colors, I presume it was one of the legacy locos that haven't yet been repainted into G&W corporate colors, applied across all of their holdings. The old livery is clean and classic - The new one... Is distinctly garish.
Precisely--I share your perception exactly. The P&W locomotive frequently parked adjacent to I-95 NB just south of downtown PVD is "clean and classic," but having looked at the new color scheme--yikes. Such a shame (though I appreciate the re-branding *imperative* behind it)
 

Scalziand

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Thank goodness they only changed the logo and didn't repaint the entire car.
 

Arlington

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Remind me:
1) what did Amtrak & MassDot get for passenger service
2) Does this leave Norfolk Southern as co-owner of the Boston & Albany?
3) What are the implications for the Hoosac tunnel ?
 

Wash

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Remind me:
1) what did Amtrak & MassDot get for passenger service
2) Does this leave Norfolk Southern as co-owner of the Boston & Albany?
3) What are the implications for the Hoosac tunnel ?
According to the article linked below:

1) Jack shit. The STB said that what the T and MassDot wanted was already covered by other agreements.
2) No, but it does give them trackage rights on it. Their daily train to Ayer will shift from the B&M to the B&A+the branch between Worcester and Ayer (once a new track connection is built connecting NS to the B&A at Voorhesville, NY).
3) Since the 1 train a day that was using it won't be using it anymore...who knows. CSX gained trackage rights over it though, so maybe they'll end up using it for something.

 

F-Line to Dudley

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Remind me:
1) what did Amtrak & MassDot get for passenger service
2) Does this leave Norfolk Southern as co-owner of the Boston & Albany?
3) What are the implications for the Hoosac tunnel ?
1) MassDOT+Amtrak settled in January with CSX for concessions for additional passenger slots on the B&A west of Worcester. They still have to double-track Springfield-Worcester to implement East-West or NNEIRI, but the agreement is now formally in place for how slots vs. responsibilities will scale. There was nothing to settle inside MBTA territory, as Pan Am's freight rights were infinitely permissible vs. passenger slots thanks to the 1976 B&M line sale agreement...though CSX does not anticipate needing to increase freight frequencies across the former B&M.

2) No. They get 2 trackage rights slots to run intermodal-only trains to Ayer via Worcester, and that's it. They get no other claim. And they're prohibited from running general freight over the B&A, so it is very heavily narrowcasted to just NS's cube intermodal franchise.

3) Not much. Their B&A rights are only for double-stacked container intermodal trains. All general freight and autoracks still must use the Patriot Corridor, which is worth a few trains per day at minimum. It'll be an initial decrease of 2 Patriot Corridor intermodal trains, but then Genessee & Wyoming gets to drum up new business as the Patriot Corridor's contracted operator. If they're successful, there'll probably be more trains than today going through the Hoosac Tunnel come 5 years from now...because it's hard to do worse than Pan Am's Marketing dept. did.


6/1 is the official takeover date for CSX, and Genessee & Wyoming has 90 days to get its operating stewardship of Pan Am Southern up and running.
 

fatnoah

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6/1 is the official takeover date for CSX, and Genessee & Wyoming has 90 days to get its operating stewardship of Pan Am Southern up and running.
There's no hard deadline for G&W to be ready by 6/1. ST will operate the line until G&W is ready.

CSX, NSR, and GWI have agreed that, if the Merger Transaction is consummated prior to the replacement of Springfield Terminal by B&E and the initiation of PAS operations by B&E, then Springfield Terminal would continue to operate PAS until Springfield Terminal— which would be owned by CSX—is replaced as the PAS operator.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Per a letter CSX sent out to its newly-acquired Pan Am customers yesterday, these are its 2022 priorities for the Pan Am network:

  • Staffing & service continuity. There's a ton of new positions posted for New England, because so many PAR employees jumped ship over the last year...so many that the railroad barely has enough crews to go around. Stabilizing employment will be utmost importance. Right now they're just trying to keep things moving as they were before without disruption, so there are no Day 1 changes in overall PAR freight ops.
  • Ditch the rolling ruins. They'll be cycling out PAR's antique locomotives for newer reinforcements from the CSX national pool. Expect fewer breakdowns, and better air quality. They'll also be collecting PAR's railcar fleet and integrating that into the national pool (probably with copious scrappings, since PAR didn't maintain them for shit). 33 locos from PAR will be set aside to jump-start Genessee & Wyoming's new Berkshire & Eastern division on the Patriot Corridor once that baton gets passed this Fall/Winter, and the rest (approx. 60-70 locos) will be picked through to see if anything is rebuildable while most probably end up sold/scrapped.
  • Albany sorting reorganization. They're going to start blocking cars especially for PAR at their huge Selkirk, NY freight yard outside Albany for quicker distribution onto the New England road jobs. That will reduce some stress on the overall system as staff-short New England yards will have a little less sorting work to do and improve departure schedules from the local yards.
  • Back-office integration. Unlike PAR's paleolithic-era Customer Service, CSX has all of its customers plugged into an expansive full-service web portal called "ShipCSX" for one-stop shopping. PAR customers will be transitioned over to that by year's end. Other hidden back-office systems integration will also commence once they figure out where all the bodies are buried in Billerica.
  • Initial construction projects. They state that 2 mainline segments in MA (probably the Worcester-Ayer main and the Ayer-North Chelmsford Stony Brook Branch, which are the 2 sorriest-condition segments between Albany and Portland) are due to start getting work done by Q3/4. And Rigby Yard in South Portland, ME, the largest yard on the PAR system, will start getting long-overdue track repair. That's it for Year 1 track work other than continuing ongoing projects (e.g. a Downeaster passing siding in Wells, ME, various previously scheduled grade crossing replacements, etc.). Most of the systemwide physical plant work will be done in subsequent years, since things like staffing stability are of much more paramount importance in the immediate term.
 

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