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NxGen Rail Services Launches Integrated Track Inspection System

December 19th, 2013

NxGen Rail Services, a rail technology engineering and development company, has launched NxTrack system. The system is the first fully integrated, line speed, rail track inspection system and includes full geometry, optical, and ground penetrating radar. NxGen Rail Services is a subsidiary of Sasser Family Holdings, Inc. (SFH).

Kelly Pronek, director of corporate communications and marketing at SFH, said, “In the railroad industry, accurate information on track condition has become increasingly important yet data collection has suffered from speed-restricted vehicles and multiple technologies. NxTrack integrates multiple technologies into a single platform to create the first inspection system of its kind on the market. NxTrack offers customers a 360-degree view of the rail to easily and accurately assess the condition of their track infrastructure, integrity, geometry, and ballast.”

With NxTrack system, the on-board software inspection module railcar collects real-time data. The software interprets track conditions and delivers results to the customer using Federal Railroad Administration-based rules. Miles of track can be inspected from a single system. Machine intelligence analyzes and reports on the probable root cause of any track problems which allows engineers to make better maintenance decisions. NxGen Rail offers NxTrack with full-service operation on customer rail lines, and as a long- or short-term lease to the customer.

 

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Deborah Wathen Finn Joins SmartDrive Board

December 19th, 2013

SmartDrive Systems, a provider of video-based operator performance and safety programs for transit agencies, has named Deborah Wathen Finn to its board of advisors. Wathen Finn has worked for over 30 years as a transportation industry executive.

She is the founder and president of The Wathen Group, where she provides strategic advisory services and leadership support for organizations. Wathen Finn has experience in commuter rail, light rail, bus and paratransit operations.

“Providing our safety solutions to the public transit industry is an integral component to SmartDrive’s strategy and success,” said CEO of SmartDrive Steve Mitgang. “Deborah’s extensive experience and unique understanding of the industry will help us ensure agency awareness of new capabilities, such as integration with other on-board systems including pedestrian detection technologies and wheelchair lifts, as well as identify program expansion opportunities as agencies adopt new vehicle types and technologies.”

Over 26 agencies in the U.S., including LA Metro, DART, Nassau County and Veolia Transportation, have used SmartDrive solutions, according to the company.

 

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Rail Expansion Planned at Port of Kalama

December 19th, 2013

The Port of Kalama has awarded a contract to Railworks Corporation to expand and relocate rail at the Temco LLC site. The port will invest $5.9 million in the project, which includes the construction of lead and yard tracks, associated grading and drainage improvements, and utility relocations and protections.

A substantial investment is also being made by Temco. With the expansion, the company will double its rail capacity and triple the product throughput capacity at the site.

Railworks Corporation is a provider of rail, transit and systems construction and maintenance. Railworks will install 3.6 miles of new track and relocate 1.1 miles of track. Construction begins on Jan. 7, 2014 and the project should be completed by June of next year.

Troy Stariha, commission president of the Port of Kalama, said, “Rail expansion and track relocation significantly enhance our client’s transportation efficiency and doubles the firm’s rail capacity to move grain which enables them to remain competitive in the global export market. These are the kinds of partnerships on projects we can offer our clients while making a positive impact on the region’s economic health.”

“This project is another excellent example of how local and regional utilities and service providers work together to enhance opportunities for our port businesses,” added Stariha. “Special thanks to our collaborating partners on this project—Williams Pipeline, City of Kalama, Cascade Natural Gas, Kalama Telephone, Cowlitz PUD, Somarakis Inc., Mountain Log Homes and AT&T.”

The Port of Kalama is located in Southwest Washington on the Columbia River and is served by the Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads.

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Wyoming Multi-Grade Crude Oil Terminal To Be Operated by Strobel Starostka Transfer

December 18th, 2013

Eighty-Eight Oil has chosen Strobel Starostka Transfer (SST), an operator of transload facilities for the energy industry, to oversee a crude oil unit-train facility. The new facility, located near the crude oil pipeline hub in Guernsey, Wyo., is the first rail terminal in the area capable of loading multiple crude types, including crude from the Bakken, Powder River Basin, Niobrara, Southwest Wyoming, Big Horn Basin and Canada.

Strobel Starostka Construction, an affiliate of SST, served as Eighty Eight Oil’s design-build partner for the project. The facility will accommodate its first unit train this week.

The facility, located on BNSF’s main line, features three loop tracks with universal entry and exit from each direction. There are two designated loading tracks with separate racks which allows two trains to be loaded simultaneously with the same or different crude types. The initial throughput capacity of the terminal is up to 80,000 barrels per day.

Jerry Herz, superintendent of Eighty-Eight Oil, stated, “Starostka Construction has done a great job constructing this facility, and their operating partner Strobel Starostka Transfer loaded our first unit train this week. This facility is the only one of its kind offering the flexibility to simultaneously load and transport different crude types to markets across the United States, adding value for all of our customers at the wellhead and at the refinery.”

SST will provide all operations and logistics at the facility. This will include hiring and training of personnel, rail integration and logistics such as facility maintenance and infrastructure inspection. SST plans to increase the number of employees at the terminal from 20 to 60 in 2014.

The facility is connected to Eighty-Eight Oil’s existing Guernsey crude oil terminal and was custom designed with engineering and operations capabilities that allow it to handle varying crude types while maintaning the quality of each one.

Eighty-Eight Oil LLC is a privately held crude oil marketing and logistics company within the True companies of Casper, Wyo.

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STB Requests Public Input on Grain Rate Case Procedures

December 17th, 2013

The Surface Transportation Board  (STB) has instituted a proceeding to review rail rate case procedures to ensure they protect, and are accessible to, grain shippers.

In Rail Transportation of Grain, Rate Regulation Review, EP 665 (Sub-No. 1), the agency invites comments from interested parties on grain shippers’ ability to effectively seek relief for unreasonable rates. Comments should include input on proposals for modifying existing procedures, or for new, alternative rate-relief methodologies.

STB instituted an earlier proceeding, Rail Transportation of Grain, EP 665, on grain-transportation markets following concerns over rail rate and service issues by grain producers, public officials, and other stakeholders. Recently another proceeding, Rate Regulation Reforms, EP 715, reformed rate case procedures, but recognized that the need for further review in this area might be required.

Comments on EP 665 (Sub-No. 1) are due March 12, 2014. Replies are due May 12, 2014.

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Patterson Named Chief Commercial Officer of Pacific Imperial Railroad

December 17th, 2013

Pacific Imperial Railroad is naming Charles M. Patterson as Chief Commercial Officer. Patterson has worked in the rail industry for 25 years and served as the Senior Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer at RailAmerica.

He has held positions in operations, sales and marketing with CSX, CN, and Great Lakes Transportation. Patterson is a graduate of both Davidson College and the University of Virginia’s Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

“Charlie brings a wealth of experience and we are very pleased to have a Chief Commercial Officer with his background and skills,” said PIR President David Rohal.

Patterson’s appointment follows PIR’s efforts to operate the Desert Line that will offer freight services to about 755 manufacturing facilities in the Tijuana-Tecate region of Baja, Calif.

 

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ASLRRA Backs Rail-Term in STB Case

December 17th, 2013

The national short line railroad association is weighing in on the Surface Transportation Board’s finding last month that classified railroad contractor Rail-Term Corp. as a rail carrier.

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association on Dec. 16 filed a petition to intervene in support of a bid for reconsideration filed by Rail-Term Corp. ASLRRA’s membership includes 959 companies: 513 Class II and III railroads and 446 suppliers and contactors to the railroad industry.

In a decision issued Nov. 19 in Finance Docket 35582, the STB ruled on a referral question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking whether Rail-Term, a contractor that provides dispatching services for short lines, fits its statutory requirements to be considered a rail carrier. The agency found that by performing an essential rail function on behalf of several short lines, Rail-Term had become a rail carrier under its jurisdiction.

“On behalf of its members ASLRRA participates in board proceedings that involve issues of industry significance, particularly those that directly affect Class II and Class III railroads,” the group said. “The board’s November decision raises such issues.”

Many small Class III carriers do not have the resources to provide such services as dispatching and rely on companies like Rail-Term to provide those services, ASLRRA said. “The finding by the board in this case, if sustained, could mean that these small carriers that depend on contractors such as Rail-Term to provide certain services could not afford those services or would have to find scarce resources to internally provide them, thus sacrificing other day-to-day essential operating and safety services. The net result of the action of the board in this case could drive many small carriers under, leaving shippers without access to railroads to move their products,” according to ASLRRA.

ASLRRA argued that the board’s November ruling creates substantial uncertainty and could have wide-ranging implications for the short line segment of the railroad industry. “Were the board to apply it as precedent in other contractor cases, a wide range of entities providing services to the industry such as rail car and locomotive maintenance and repair, track maintenance, environmental and wreck clean up, signal maintenance, communications and “IT” support could be required to obtain entry, exit, and merger authority and even regarding prices and service. Such a precedent would be contrary to the definition of “rail carrier” as well as common sense. Additionally, such a ruling could subject these contractors to other laws that apply to common carrier railroads such as the Railway Labor Act and the Federal Employers Liability Act.”

Further, there is no evidence to indicate that Congress intended for the board to expand its jurisdiction to address the issue of carrier employee benefit coverage. ASLRRA said it believes the board should leave to Congress the issue of whether railroad contractors should be subject to coverage under laws such as the Railroad Retirement and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Acts, the Railway Labor Act, and the Federal Employers Liability Act.

In its petition for reconsideration filed with the STB, Rail-Term said the practical effect of the STB’s ruling is to subject “this railroad industry vendor and potentially many other railroad industry suppliers” to coverage under the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA) and the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA), a result clearly not intended by Congress. “The November decision is not only contrary to the plain language of the statute…it also reverses without legal justification a long line of STB and Interstate Commerce Commission precedent on the term ‘rail carrier’ and draws conclusions without any basis in the record,” Rail-Term told the STB.

Rail-Term describes itself as a small privately held Michigan corporation and subsidiary of Canadian corporation Rail-Term Inc. Rail-Term Inc., and subsidiaries Rail-Term and Centre Rail-Control Inc., are engaged in a variety of activities that support the railroad industry in both the U.S. and Canada. Rail-Term and its sister corporation in Canada, Centre Rail-Control Inc., provide dispatching software and dispatching services for short line and regional freight railroads and for VIA RAIL CANADA, Canada’s national passenger railroad. Rail-Term develops computer-based dispatching software and provides dispatching services for several U.S. short lines from an office in Rutland, VT. In effect, Rail-Term’s rail carrier clients have contracted with Rail-Term to provide the dispatching functions that they could otherwise perform “in house.”

Rail-Term said it currently employs 7 people in its U.S. office and, along with its corporate parent and Canadian sibling, employs about 100 people overall. Rail-Term provides dispatching services in the United States for the Aberdeen Carolina and Western Railway Inc., Carolina Coastal Railway, St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad (a Genesee & Wyoming subsidiary), Royal Gorge Express, LC, Washington and Idaho Railway, and short line holding company, Omni-Trax, Inc., and its subsidiary railroads.

Rail-Term does not own any lines of railroad, operate trains, hold itself out to the public to provide transportation for compensation, or own, lease, or operate any railroad locomotives or rolling stock, or hold any sort of license from the STB to operate as a rail carrier or common carrier by railroad in the United States. Rail-Term asserts that it is a “noncarrier” under any reasonable interpretation under the ICC Termination Act and therefore not an “employer” for coverage purposes under the RRA and RUIA.

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Wabtec Wins $34 Million PTC Contract from Sound Transit

December 16th, 2013

Wabtec Corporation, a provider of rail technology-based products and services, has been awarded a $34 million contract from Sound Transit to design, install, test and commission a Positive Train Control (PTC) system. Sound Transit plans, builds and operates express bus, light rail and commuter train services in the Seattle area. Its commuter rail line covers 82 miles and handles close to 3 million passengers annually.

Wabtec will install Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS®) for 16 locomotives and 18 passenger transit cab cars and provide signal design and communications, mapping and systems integration. The Sound Transit system will be fully interoperable with PTC systems used on Class I railroads. Wabtec Railway Electronics, Wabtec Global Services, Xorail and Bach-Simpson, which are all divisions of Wabtec, will be involved in the project.

Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec’s chairman and CEO, stated, “As transit agencies around the U.S. continue to deploy PTC over the next several years, Wabtec has the capabilities to continue to play a significant role. To date, we have booked nearly $150 million worth of PTC projects in transit.”

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Progress Rail’s Savage Named CAT Vice President

December 16th, 2013

Jean Savage has been promoted to vice president of Caterpillar Inc., parent company of Progress Rail Services (PRS).

She will replace Caterpillar Vice President Hans Haefeli, who is retiring effective April 30, 2014. After more than 15 years with Caterpillar, Hans Haefeli, vice president with responsibility for the Advanced Components & Systems Division (ACSD), has elected to retire to return to the United Kingdom.

Savage is currently a senior vice president and Chief Operating Officer of the Locomotive and Railcar Services business unit for Caterpillar subsidiary Progress Rail Services.

“Jean joined Progress Rail Services in 2002, bringing with her more than 20 years of outside business and military leadership experience,” said Steve Wunning, Caterpillar group president with responsibility for Resource Industries. “In addition to her deep expertise in the rail business, her significant background in component manufacturing and engineering will serve her well as she leads ACSD.”

Savage joined Progress Rail Services in 2002 as vice president for Quality and Continuous Improvement. She also served as vice president of PRS’ Freight Car Repair, Parts and Quality Divisions before her most recent position. Prior to joining PRS, she worked in a variety of manufacturing and engineering positions in her 14 years at Parker Hannifin Corp., a leader in motion and control technologies and systems. That was preceded by nine years in the Army Reserves as a military intelligence officer. Savage holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Dayton. She will assume her new position on April 1. 

 

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Genesee & Wyoming Reports November Traffic Gains

December 13th, 2013

Short line operator Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) has reported increases in November traffic volumes for 2013. G&W’s consolidated traffic volumes include carloads from RailAmerica Inc. (RA) railroads.

In order to provide comparative context for 2013 consolidated traffic volumes, G&W provides 2012 pro forma carload information as though the RA railroads were owned by G&W on Jan. 1, 2012. G&W has also amended RA’s 2012 carload information to conform with G&W’s reporting methodology.

G&W’s traffic in November 2013 increased by 102.9 percent compared to November 2012. Carload volumes increased by 77,260 to 152,308. There was a 5.4-percent increase on a pro forma basis compared to total November 2012 carloads for the RA acquisition, with carload numbers up by 7,826.

G&W’s traffic in the 2013 fourth quarter through November increased 103.6 percent. Carloads were reported at 316,137, an increase of 160,848 compared to traffic in the 2012 fourth quarter through November. The pro forma for the RA acquisition saw an increase of 17,537 carloads, or 5.9 percent, compared to total 2012 fourth quarter through November carloads.

The following increases in carloads were reported by G&W for the 2013 fourth quarter through November when compared to the 2012 fourth quarter through November:

  • There was an increase of 2,884 carloads in coal & coke traffic. This was mainly due to increased shipments in G&W’s Central, Midwest and Ohio Valley regions.
  • Traffic in agricultural products increased by 2,374 carloads due to more shipments in G&W’s Australia and Ohio Valley regions. This was partially offset by decreased shipments in G&W’s Midwest Region.
  • An increase of 2,279 carloads was reported in metallic ores traffic due to increased iron ore shipments in G&W’s Australia Region.
  • All remaining traffic increased by a net 289 carloads.

 

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