Saturday, March 28, 2009

Delmarva Timetable
News of the Delmarva Model Railroad Club
April 2009
Jeff Shockley, Editor
Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 in the Club meeting room.

Note from The President
This something new that Jeff started for the newsletter. hope this works out good for all of us.

There are a couple of things that i would like to have people keep in the back of there minds before the next Open Houses.

The door at the top of the stairs. We need to change the swing of the door to the inside not out. For anyone that is worried about fire codes at Open House we can take it off the hinges, remember the other fire escape is behind the "O" scale layout.

I was approached last Wednesday night (March 18) about selling tickets at the mall between our Open House dates in December and January. I should be getting more info about before the April meeting.

The 501c3 has been killed off. Jeff looked more into it, and he found out that the building has to be completely set up for handicap access. That is going to cost us too much money to do.

If anyone has any other ideas for ways for us to bring in money, other than what we are doing now bring it up over the next couple meetings. Remember, the club needs money to survive on.


Library News
Jeff Shockley, Librarian

The cataloging and arranging of the books and magazines continues. The next big project will be redesigning the layout for the computer. I would also like to thank everyone for their comments on the work going on in the Library, as well as those that have sent emails about how much they are enjoying the newsletter each month.

If anyone has any news that they would like to share with the other members, whether it is club news, or news on your home layout, please send it on to me, pictures are welcome too. I will make sure it gets included.

Layout News
All groups report things are progressing smoothly on all the layouts.

O-Gauge News
Gary Burlingame

We started to clean up the work room last week (2/19). Did you know there are corners in it? Those haven’t seen the light of day for many a year. We put up shelving on the west side and have a place to store plywood. Thursday 26 back at it, found two more corners! Tim brought his truck and we packed it full! Many thanks to the N & HO guys who helped.

HO News
Adam Fleischer

We started the back half of the Parkersburg yard, we completely ripped it up and relayed down new plywood, the new track for the yard itself will be in by Saturday, in time for the April Op Session.

April HO Layout and Operations Report Combined
Bill Deeter, HO Scale Coordinator
As I look around the layout all I can say is WOW and awesome job folks! Everywhere you look on the layout there is progress. There is even some survey crew’s busy working at a couple industries on the Ohio River Sub. Watch for signs of growth around Sporn Power and Kaiser Aluminum in the near future.

You are all part of building something pretty incredible.

I also want to thank the 19 people that showed up for the OPS session that wasn’t. A lot of track got cleaned, cars repaired and inventoried as well as some staging got done but not as much staging as I hoped would get done.

First real OPS Session of the year will be April 19, 2009. Trains will start rolling at 1 pm so please try and be there no later than 12:45. Hope to see you there.

For the ops session to really I really need a lot more help with the staging but have a hard time explaining to the few folks that have asked to help just what to do. So with Mary’s help I have created a staging instruction sheet for both the Main East (Grafton) and West (Cincinnati) Staging yards. I explained it to her and she kept making me explain the process in enough detail that she could understand and that is the first draft that is now available for each yard. I’m sure there may be questions from anyone trying it for the first time but we will try and add those answers to the next revision so several people can handle the main staging. There are approximately 15 trains in the main staging area so if several people handle them the time per person will be greatly reduced. The layout is set up not to require all that much staging but even so it still takes time and of coarse it is even worse after Open House.

So on the staging front I’ll take the first after meeting clinic and it will be on staging. I got several inputs about clinics but as of yet no one has said they have one ready. I’m not sure how time will go with both business meetings as this is the club’s first meeting with it’s new officers and the HO group may spend some time on the money thing. If it gets too late I will post pone it for another time.

As we discussed a bit at the last HO meeting the club resources are still quite thin and the HO group was only given $500.00 for the year as were each of the other groups. There may be a slight chance of a tiny bit more later in the year. As you may realize that won’t buy much. However even with all the construction that has been going on I have not had anyone bring me any reimbursement requests. Please do remember any purchases made to come from club funds needs approval before it is spent. We discussed financing plans for the HO railroad but no real decisions were made. Our next HO Business meeting will be right after the Clubs Business meeting on April 1. 2009. At that meeting we need to decide the priorities that will use the club funds.

At the last HO Meeting in February we reactivated a couple positions for the HO layout to help keep things moving smoothly. These were nominated and elected.

Track Forman will be Rowland Ritte.
What this position entails is making sure all track work is done reliably and follows the approved plans. What does this mean to you who are working around the layout? Make sure you clear any track work through the Track Forman like switch installs, grade crossings, track realignments as well as ballasting to name just a few.

Electrical / Signal Forman will be Elmer McKay.
This one covers all the electrical connections and components on the layout and any equipment connected. What this means is any electoral work needs coordinated through Elmer.

Nether of these positions means they are the only ones that do all that type work it means they coordinate and supervise the work to make sure it meets reliability standards.

As we move forward a few more positions will be necessary to keep everything moving forward.

One position that needs to grow out of the Electrical and Track Departments will be

Switch Maintainer
This position ties very closely with both the Track and Electrical Departments. This person will be responsible for maintaining all turnouts. There are two parts to this: above and below the layout. The above will involve making sure the points are clean and aligned as well as any linkage and ground throws are working correctly. The below will entail Switch Motors and linkage.

Signal Maintainer I’m not completely sure about this but it is a nice sounding railroad term.

Coordinator Car Utilization / Rolling stock foreman makes sure rolling stock is repaired and test ran and that it meets NMRA standards. Works closely with Fleet Database Maintainer makes sure any cars shopped are recorded as to where they are.

Division Road Foreman Engines
Keeps Locomotive Programmed and balanced Power Correct for trains and MU'd as well as maintaining Locomotive roster in Decoder Pro / Excel

Fleet Database Maintainer (car cards)
Works closely with Rolling Stock Foreman. Adds new cars to system and prints Car Cards Locates missing CC or cars. Tracks maintenance of cars. Records rolling stock removed for repair

Chief Clerk (creates and maintains waybills)
Uses Sheneware Software to create and balance waybills

License Plate Frames
These fit over an automobile license plate. Available in Black or Chrome. The top has “Delmar,
Delaware” engraved on it, the bottom has
“Delmarva Model Railroad Club”. Price for members $15.00, non-members $20.00. Custom orders are accepted.

Club Shirts
Bill Shehan is accepting orders for club shirts. Two styles are available and come in sizes Small to 4XL.
Styles, Sizes and Prices are:

Golf Shirts (Short Sleeve Only)
S, M, L, XL $22.75
2XL $26.25
3XL $28.75
4XL $31.25

Broad Cloth (Long and Short Sleeve)
S, M, L, XL $25.00
2XL $27.50
3XL $30.00
4XL $32.50

Club Officers 2009 - 2010
The following officers were elected at the Annual Meeting in March:

President – Adam Fleischer
Vice President – Pat Mulrooney
Treasurer – Bill Shehan
Secretary – John Realini
Director – Bill Deeter
Director – Bill Latourney
Director – John Steplowski
Director – Tim Burlingame

Club Website
Elmer McKay
As most of you know, the club's web site was taken down just before our annual open house due to events beyond our control. There was a replacement site that was put up and posted in a bit of a hurry, and of course didn't have too much on it. Elmer McKay has now taken over the task of getting the web site set up in a proper and appealing manner.

What seems to be lacking is photos of the following layouts: N scale DCC; N scale modular; O scale; and Tin Plate. Basically all of the layouts except HO.

Currently there are some off site links to photos of some of these, but it would be nice if we had some recent photos that we could post on our own site. Photos should be of both completed areas, and areas that are under construction with people in them doing some work. Also, there should be some sort of a write up on each of the layouts telling a little something about it. If you have some photos that can be used, please let me know. DO NOT email me your photos right away. Contact me by email first and let me know how many you have and what they show. I will then coordinate with you about how many to send at a time as attachments. The photos should also be of good quality and sharp. I will not post tiny, blurry, or poor lit photos. The web site is our showcase and should reflect good work. If you want credit for taking the photo, put your name and the date IN THE PHOTO at the bottom right corner.

There are several photo editing programs that you can do this with. Otherwise there will be a general statement that photos in the section were submitted by club members.

My email address is

The subject line must pertain to the message and not just "Hi", or something simple like that, because I trash those without reading them, because I get a lot of Spam.

The web site is a club project, although I am overseeing it at the moment. I have not received any responses except from the HO scale group. To make the site a club wide project, I NEED good photos of the following layouts: N scale DCC, N scale Modular, O scale, Tinplate. What it boils down to is No photos, No publicity.

What is Weiland?
Ed Stogran

This article describes the geography of the Town of Weiland on the HO layout of the Delmarva RR Club. Weiland is a non-prototype (free lanced) village, the only one of its kind on the HO layout.

Accidentally, it also just happens to be the largest town on the layout. This was not true eight years ago because it didn't exist back then. Only the yard was in
place in those days. So fundamentally the village was "incorporated" in 2000/2001.

Fictional Weiland is located inland (East) of the Ohio River, in West Virginia, South/Southwest of Parkersburg and some distance North/Northeast of Huntington. There is a Delmarva HO club rule that when any track is viewed (from the aisles) you are looking South. E.G. West being to the right & East being to the left.

WEILAND is an exception since it depends
from which aisle one is looking. If one is inside the layout (looking toward the East wall
of the building or, from the yard) then it is NOT true. East (actually Northeast) is to the right, heading toward Parkersburg and eventually, Wheeling. [West, actually southwest, toward the left] But from the main aisle, (looking from the Port, Eastward toward Weiland, in other words with your back to the East wall of the building) RR West (actually southwest) is to the right.

This is an anomaly because the Ohio River is now nominally before you, yet the mainline to
Belpre/Athens, also in front of you, is actually supposed to be retreating behind you toward the West, rather than toward the right which is "defined" as westward. This anomaly is a geographical strangeness and a creature of our layout. Think about it awhile and you might understand!
[Curiously this is consistent: trains leaving Weiland and headed toward the North side of the clubhouse building are always traveling "west", regardless of how they are viewed]

Weiland has seven roads, the longest ones (Main Street and also Commerce Street) being 2 blocks long.
All roads are named. The local U.S. Post office on Railroad Avenue keeps track of addresses.

There are 13 buildings plus the railroad station in "downtown". On the edge of town there is a lumberyard and coal yard, as well as a church with a parsonage. There are "other" buildings in the yard area, which are technically not inside the village.
The Weiland Herald newspaper reports News events.

Weiland is also "home base" for the Weiland &
Port Charles Railroad, whose corporate offices are at 106C Main Street, in the village. The railroad is actually older than the village. This W & PC Carrier was initially created to serve 2 nearby industries, lumbering and quarrying, as well as transfers in/out of the Port but has now seen increasing demand from new local commercial businesses and a growing village population. The W & PC connects to the Ohio River Sub of the B & O Railroad. The W & P C RR Company is in the process of acquiring new motive power, and a new passenger coach to handle increased traffic.

Behind the town, in the commercial area, there are five yard tracks that have served the town, the quarry and logging, as well as local commercial interests for many years.

The Village of Weiland (as well as the "branch line") was named in memory of club member Carl Weiland (club Member #151) who made many contributions and was very well liked.

Railroading News

Crapo, Lincoln Introduce Railroad Legislation
Bipartisan bill boosts short line freight transportation through tax incentivesMarch 1, 2009 American Chronicle Congressional Desk
Washington, DC – Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have introduced legislation to extend the tax credit to increase the necessary investment in rehabilitation and upgrades for short line railroads. The announcement came as Crapo met with representatives of Watco Companies and other short line railroad companies in his Washington, DC office to discuss the legislation on "Railroad Day" on Capitol Hill. Watco operates rail services in eastern, southern and north-central Idaho. Both Crapo and Lincoln are members of the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over tax law. The legislation grants short line railroads a tax credit of 50 cents for every dollar the railroad spends on track improvements. "Short line railroads are a lifeline for our small businesses by moving the product from the farm and factory to the distribution centers, and on to the stores and consumers. The Short Line Rehabilitation Tax Credit increases the necessary investment in track rehabilitation and upgrades to allow this freight to move safely, faster, and in heavier rail cars."
"These rail improvements not only create jobs; they can save rail lines that might otherwise go abandoned by other rail companies. The Lincoln-Crapo bill would extend the tax credit program for three years.Watco Companies, based in Kansas, owns Watco Transportation Services which operates 19 short line railroads throughout the United States, including the Eastern Idaho Railroad and has operations in the Magic Valley and Palouse areas, including rail repair facilities in Rupert and Idaho Falls. Crapo has strongly supported these tax credits which helped spur improvements along the Eastern Idaho Regional Railroad lines near Burley when Crapo toured there in the summer of 2006."Every dollar invested in rail equals three dollars in economic output," said Rick Webb, Watco CEO. "Tax credits are value-added when you consider that everyone in the transportation cycle benefits. New jobs are created to perform the work; shippers receive the best service for their dollar and the public benefits from the efficiencies created by improved infrastructure."

Locomotive Cameras May Follow Metrolink Crash Probe
By Angela Greiling Keane
March 4, 2009
Calls may increase to put cameras or voice recorders inside locomotive cabs as investigators sift the evidence into what caused last year’s Los Angeles commuter train crash that killed 25 people.

“Where we’re going with this is technology,” said Gregg Konstanzer, assistant general manager of Connex Railroad LLC, which employed the Metrolink commuter train engineer. “The onboard cameras with the recording, I don’t know how one can argue against that.”

Investigators are piecing together the events leading up to the Sept. 12 collision of a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific Corp. freight train that was the deadliest U.S. passenger rail crash since 1993.

Crew members on both trains were sending text messages before the accident, an inquiry showed.
Metrolink will install cameras inside all its locomotives and lead passenger cars, becoming the first U.S. railroad to do so, Metrolink board chairman Keith Millhouse said today in a statement released after the National Transportation Safety Board concluded a hearing on the collision. The cameras will be”a significant deterrent” to unauthorized actions, Millhouse said.

Voice recorders could be as useful in examining rail accidents as they are in incidents involving commercial airplanes and ships, in which they are now required, NTSB member Kitty Higgins said outside the hearing.

“How can we do a better job investigating these accidents?” Higgins said in an interview.

Labor unions representing train operators, which have protested requiring recording devices, said they only object to using the data for purposes other than accident probes.

Safeguards for Privacy
“We do not object to camera installation in the cab of locomotives once the proper safeguards for privacy are in place and the recorded data is used only for accident investigation and not subverted for use as a discipline tool,” said Frank Wilner, a spokesman for the United Transportation Union, whose members include railroad conductors.

“The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen opposes video cameras or voice recorders in locomotive engine cabs unless there are strong controls limiting their use for accident investigation purposes only,” said Bill Walpert, National Secretary-Treasurer of the agency.

Head-on Crash
The trains in Los Angeles, both traveling faster than 40 miles an hour, collided after the Metrolink engineer missed signals telling him to stop to let the freight train pass, the board has said. The engineer, Robert Sanchez, was sending text messages as recently as 22 seconds before the crash to a rail enthusiast he was planning to let take the controls of the train later that day, the NTSB investigation found.
Many trains, including the Union Pacific locomotive in this crash, have outward-facing cameras that capture footage in front of the train.

“I have no issue with” cameras inside the cabs, Larry Breeden, Union Pacific’s general manager of
Operating procedures, said at the hearing yesterday.

The Federal Railroad Administration, which regulates rail safety, is looking at requiring voice recorders in locomotives and has not considered cameras, agency spokesman Warren Flatau said.

Association of American Railroads spokeswoman Patti Reilly didn’t respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Kean in Washington at

Text messages of engineer in deadly train wreck detailed
March 5, 2009 Cable News Network
Trains and text messages made a deadly combination when two locomotives collided head-on last year near Los Angeles, California, witnesses told an investigative panel this week.

Metrolink commuter train engineer Robert Sanchez missed a stop signal while trading text messages with a friend on September 12, leading to a collision with a Union Pacific freight train that killed Sanchez and 24 other people in Chatsworth, California.

The accident injured 101 people and caused $10.6 million in damages, according to a report by federal investigators.

One National Transportation Safety Board member worries other disasters loom on the nation's rail system.

"One train, one day, one crew. It raises questions for me as to what the heck else is going on out there," said Kitty Higgins, chairwoman of a two-day NTSB hearing in Washington on the accident.

Sanchez violated his employer's safety rules by even having a cell phone in the cab of the locomotive, a supervisor testified.

Phone records show Sanchez was not only texting a friend just 22 seconds before the collision, but he also had made plans to allow the same friend to actually operate the train.

This was a text conversation four days before the crash:
[Sanchez to friend]: "I'm REALLY looking forward to getting you in the cab and showing
you how to run a locomotive."

[Friend to Sanchez]: "OMG dude me too.
Running a locomotive. Having all of that in the palms of my hands."

[Sanchez to friend]: "I'm gonna do all the radio talkin'...ur gonna run the locomotive & I'm gonna tell u how to do it."

At the hearing, officials said Sanchez had been caught with a cell phone twice before. Once another employee turned him in, another time a manager called his phone to see if it was with him in the train cab.

"The engineer's cell phone rang. It was in his briefcase on the other side of the train. I told the engineer that he was in violation of our policy," Rick Dahl, who was a safety manager with Metrolink at the time of the accident, told the NTSB investigative panel.

Federal regulations do not cover cell phone use by train crews.

Records also indicate Sanchez previously had allowed unauthorized people to ride in the cab, and one person even sat at the controls while the train was operating, investigators said.

Phone company records indicate the Union Pacific freight train conductor, who was not named and who survived, also sent a text message about two minutes before the collision, but no other crew member sent or received any messages while on duty, investigators said.

That train crew followed all signals and other procedures properly, according to an NTSB timeline.

The Metrolink train stopped at a station for 57 seconds to allow passengers to exit and board the train, according to an animation of the timeline presented at the hearing.

"The engineer is required to call all signals and indications via radio," Dahl testified. Sanchez did not call any of the last three signals before the crash, investigators determined.

The freight train was supposed to move onto a siding to allow the Metrolink train to pass, but it never got there because the commuter train ignored a stop signal and intercepted it at a curve. The freight train was just emerging from a tunnel in the rugged Topanga Canyon, and the trains were visible to each other in the curve for only about five seconds, according to the report.

At the time of impact, the Metrolink train was traveling about 42 mph and the Union Pacific train 41 mph. The freight train braked for two seconds before impact; the commuter train didn't brake at all, according to onboard data recorders.

Investigators found no problems with the signals, the trains' brakes and radios or the tracks. The Union Pacific conductor's blood and urine tested positive for marijuana, but no other crew member's from either train did. A final report on the Southern California crash is months away.

A month after the crash, former President Bush signed into law a bill requiring the railroad industry to implement by 2016 a rail-traffic control system akin to the familiar air-traffic control system in the nation's airports. Such a system had been on the NTSB's "wish list" since 1990, an agency press release said.

"Many lives will be saved as a result of this legislation," NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said at the time.

Arson guts early railroad building
March 5 2009 Albuquerque, NM
RATON, NM - Fire investigators in Raton Thursday blamed arson for the fire that destroyed part of a historic building housing offices of the Colfax County Senior Center.

Raton fire crews were called to the former railroad freight house building on South First Street about 3:30 a.m.

Fire chief Dave Pasquale said the fire started on the south end of the building on a wood deck. An accelerant was used, he added.

The building had been remodeled a few years ago. It was built in 1903 as by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway as a freight house.

Investigators are still trying to find the person who set the fire.

20 years later, train lovers still gather for model train show
By Brooke Nelson
March 8, 2009 Standard-Examiner Ogden, Utah
Model trains of all sizes filled Union Station on Saturday (March 7) and for the first time, crowds could ride one very big train from Salt Lake City directly to the smaller trains at the Hostlers Model Railroad Festival.

The festival is in its 20th year, but this is the first year FrontRunner has been available for festival guests.
While the Jupiter train ride running between the FrontRunner station and the festival was a highlight for many families, it was old classics that really drew the crowds.

"I think (the appeal) is that some of it's hands-on, it's simple and it's really cool," said Christy Chambers, who came from Tremonton with her two children. "I think it's a constant. Trains have always been around."
Hundreds of model trains were on display this weekend, combining the efforts of nine different model train clubs.

Trains ranged in size from miniature to large enough to ride in. Mike Murphy, festival chairman, said this is the biggest year yet.

The attendance total is expected to near 9,000.
"The favorite part for me is seeing the gratification of people who come, the kids especially," Murphy said. "This is something we grew up with as kids."

Twenty years ago, Murphy and two others founded the club, which now has more than 200 members, and he says it's among the largest model railroad clubs in the world.

"It's in their blood," he said.

Union Station docent conductor Byron Lewis said he doesn't build model trains, but his career was spent getting real trains to run, and it's a passion he wants to pass on, so he brings his great-grandchildren to the model train festival every year.

"Most people will never ride a train," Lewis said. "It's something the youngest generation won't get. This is the nearest you're going to see."

Murphy said Ogden's prominence in the history of the railroad is a huge factor in the success of the festival.
Once the costs of the festival are covered, the majority of the proceeds are donated to Union Station to help preserve the historic building.

"This is a really neat building," Murphy said. "I'm always surprised by the number of people who have never been here before."

Man Allegedly Steals Railroad Rail
John Walker
March 10, 2009 The Duncan Banner Duncan, Oklahoma
DUNCAN — A Comanche man was arrested Friday evening for allegedly stealing a piece of railroad rail approximately 40 feet in length. Johnnie DeWayne Branch, 37, was stopped by Stephens County sheriff’s deputies after a report came in about a truck pulling a 16-foot trailer that was hauling what was initially thought to be an approximately 40-foot beam. More than 20 feet of the beam was hanging out the back of the trailer and dragging on the road, causing sparks. After Branch was stopped by the deputies, they realized that the beam was actually steel rail from the railroad. Bond for Branch was set Monday at $3,500 after his initial appearance in Stephens County District Court. His next appearance in court is April 14. He remained in jail Monday evening.
After the Stephens County commissioner meeting Monday morning, Sheriff Wayne McKinney asked Commissioner Dee Bowen to look at the roadway near Oklahoma Highway 53 on 42nd Street where the rail caused sparks to see whether there was any damage. At about 3 p.m. Monday, Bowen said that the road didn’t have much damage to it.“There’s barely a scratch,” Bowen said.
McKinney said the rail had a value of well over $5,000.The case is still under investigation. Union Pacific investigators are also investigating the case. Federal charges could possibly be pressed against Branch, McKinney said.
According to the affidavit prepared by Stephens County Sheriff’s Lt. Lawson Guthrie, the report came into the sheriff’s department at about 8:40 p.m. Deputies stopped the vehicle about 1.25 miles north of Dr Pepper Road on 42nd Street.

According to the affidavit, Branch told deputies he purchased the rail from a man in Addington. But Reserve Deputy Bobby Bowen said he tracked the drag marks left from the rail and they allegedly originated on County Road 186 about a quarter mile east of U.S. Highway 81 next to the railroad tracks.According to the affidavit, Guthrie contacted a Union Pacific investigator who said that a lot of railroad property had been stolen in the area recently.Union Pacific has been repairing and replacing the railroad track in Stephens County.

Supreme Court sends railroad case back to Kanawha
By Justin Anderson - Statehouse Bureau
March 13, 2009 West Virginia Record Charleston, West Virginia
CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Supreme Court has overturned a ruling in Kanawha Circuit Court that said a retired railroad worker released his employer from liability when he took early retirement.
Ohio Circuit Judge Arthur Recht in 2007 granted summary judgment to Norfolk Southern Railway Company in a lawsuit brought on by Freda Marlene Ratliff, whose husband Sparrell Ratliff died shortly after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Sparrell's diagnosis came some 19 years after he accepted an early retirement package from Norfolk Southern after 40 years with the company and a predecessor, Norfolk & Western Railway Company.
Sparrell started working for the railroad in 1947 at the age of 23. He eventually became a locomotive engineer, court records say.The company offered the early retirement packages as a way to reduce employment costs in the mid-1980s.
After her husband's death in July 2005, Freda filed an action against Norfolk Southern to recover damages under the Federal Employer's Liability Act.
The company argued that the early retirement agreement Sparrell signed in 1986 contained language that exempted it from any future employment-related claims Sparrell might bring, like under the FELA.
But the West Virginia justices, in a unanimous decision, ruled that an early retirement agreement does not exempt a company from future liability.
In its opinion, written by Justice Robin Jean Davis, the court cited two specific federal cases that involved FELA.One of the cases - Babbitt v. Norfolk & Western Company - involved several former rail employees who agreed to an early retirement from the company, but later sued under FELA to recover damages for hearing loss.
The other case - Wicker v. Consolidated Rail Corporation - involved five former rail employees who had taken early retirement during the course of settling one FELA claim before filing another later.
In the Babbitt case, the federal court ruled that a release is only valid under FELA if it relates to a specific injury.
In the Wicker case, the court ruled that the workers realized the risks involved in railroad work.
In an amicus brief filed by the Association of American Railroads in the Ratliff appeal, the association urged the justices to follow the logic in the Wicker case. The association said that under the reasoning in the Babbitt case, railroads wouldn't be able to "buy their peace" with employees through settlement and release of FELA claims.
The association said releases are becoming more important to the industry as it sees a rise in FELA claims for occupational diseases."General releases play an important role in the settlement of these claims," the brief says. "Many occupational diseases are characterized by long latency periods and typically cannot be tied to a specific accident or event. It often is in the interest of both employer and employee to settle any and all occupational disease claims when a settlement is entered into, even if it is not obvious at the time that the employee will ever manifest a released condition."
The employee bargains for more money up front, to compensate for illness which may or may not occur in the future; the railroad, knowing it has satisfied its obligation to the employee, buys its peace. Having done so, should a condition allegedly caused by past exposure to some agent in the workplace become manifest years later, neither party will need to be concerned about addressing the claim in a lawsuit, and producing evidence, many years after the fact."
The justices disagreed. They said the Ratliff circumstances were more similar to the facts in the Babbitt case."A Wicker-type employee is involved in negotiating a FELA claim and, therefore, meets the requirement ... that a controversy exists," Davis wrote. "Under this circumstance, a release does not violate (FELA) so long as the risk released was one known to the parties and was a risk the employee intended to release."
A Babbitt-type employee, on the other hand, is not negotiating the settlement of a claim. A Babbitt employee has merely agreed to a voluntary end to his or her employment. Unlike an employee who is negotiating a FELA claim, an employee who is participating in a voluntary separation program is not engaged in a controversy as to liability ..."Using that logic, the justices ruled that the early retirement agreement Sparrell signed in 1986 did not exempt the company from future FELA claims. The case was reversed and remanded to Kanawha Circuit Court.State Supreme Court case number: 34156

Amtrak ticket system crashes across the country
By Lisa Fleisher
March 13, 2009 The Star-Ledger Newark, New Jersey
Amtrak riders across the country today had to get handwritten tickets when the train company's ticketing system shut down.

The ticketing system went kaput from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., spokesman Cliff Cole said.

Riders with reservations gave their confirmation numbers to the conductors, who were to check them at a later time. Otherwise, riders could buy tickets on the train, and conductors would waive an on-board fee.

"It was a computer system glitch," Cole said. "So it's something I'm sure they'll look into, but like I said, it's very rare."

Train thief took a 120-ton joy ride
By Robert Samuels
The alleged plan was simple yet bold: Steal a locomotive. Drive it to a bar. Toast your daring. But the caper landed a train-loving suspect in jail.
March 14, 2009 The Miami Herald Miami, Florida
The heist from a Kendall sidetrack was revealed on a Sunday, shortly before midnight. A railroad crew came out to crank up locomotive No. 2617 -- a 120-ton blue and yellow behemoth that has snaked up and down the East Coast, hauling loads for CSX. But somehow, it had vanished.

They called 911 with a most unusual and alarming request: We need your help finding our missing locomotive.

Finding it was relatively easy. Trains run on tracks, after all. They located the abandoned locomotive seven miles to the southwest. It was missing its fire extinguisher.

But who took the locomotive and how? Swiping a train isn't like hot-wiring a Camaro. There's a complex choreography of switch-flipping, knob-turning and lever-pulling to start it up.

Someone had to possess some know-how.

Investigators ruled out terrorism. Their conclusion: The trainjacker wanted to take a joy ride. Detectives took pictures, lifted fingerprints. Soon, a clue connecting the heist to fashion and snacks emerged.

A fingerprint taken from the fuel pump belonged to one Brandon Dowdy, a mechanic who lives in Cutler Bay. He did not work for CSX.

Records show that Dowdy had previously been charged with committing a modest crime. On Jan. 23, a week after his 22nd birthday, a security guard spotted him allegedly trying to steal a $32.99 plaid jacket and a $3.79 package of beef jerky from a Kmart. He was charged with petty theft. They put his right thumbprint on file.

Three days after the train caper, police knocked on Dowdy's door. His friend, Alex Johnson-Self, a lanky man with stringy hair and small brown eyes, answered. He told them this story:

On Feb. 22, Johnson-Self and Dowdy saw the locomotive, saw that no one was looking, and decided to climb aboard. They used a hammer to break through the locks that secure all the switches. They started it up.

When they realized that they could actually drive it away, Dowdy instructed his buddy to hop out and drive his silver pickup truck to the Redland Tavern, where they would rendezvous. By car, it's a 20-minute trip.

The Redland Tavern, a place that advertises ''Bikers Welcome'' on the sign out front, is steps away from the tracks near Krome Avenue and 232nd Street. On Sundays, patrons listen to a country and classic-rock band called Big Dick and the Extenders.

The ride -- through a region dotted with strawberry fields, ranches selling rabbits and chickens, and nurseries with signs saying ``no hay trabajo'' (there is no work) -- chugged past subdivisions and a Lexus dealership.

The locomotive passed through several railroad crossings but did not engage the crossing signals, since those are triggered by an operator inside the train. Fortunately, no cars or pedestrians were flattened.

Johnson-Self said he drove Dowdy's silver pickup truck south toward the bar. They eventually did meet up, although it is not clear precisely where. The locomotive was found about a mile north of the watering hole.

The same day that Johnson-Self 'fessed up, police caught up with Dowdy. He was in the silver Ford pickup truck, driving to his father's house in Dunedin, near Tampa. Inside the truck was a telltale piece of evidence: the locomotive's missing fire extinguisher.

When detectives asked Dowdy why he entered the engine, according to the police report, he told them he ``saw the train and wanted to look at it.''

In addition to the pending petty-theft charge, he now faced some not-so-petty charges: grand theft, burglary and illegally interfering with a railroad track. (Johnson-Self was charged with theft and railroad interference for allegedly helping Dowdy start up the locomotive.)

The train industry takes the theft of its locomotives seriously, especially since 9/11. Conceivably, locomotive hauling hazardous materials could crash into a secure site like a port, unleashing a toxic cloud from a tanker.

Dowdy was just heading to a bar, according to his buddy.

CSX, nonetheless, is reviewing its security procedures. ''There are serious consequences to stealing a train,'' CSX spokesman Gary Sease said.

Through his public defender, James Chimera, Dowdy declined to speak to The Miami Herald. His arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday.

Dowdy's mother, flight attendant Elizabeth Combs, says her son has always had a thing for railroads.

The family celebrated his eighth birthday party at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in South Miami-Dade County. Family photos show Dowdy smiling broadly, wearing a blue and white conductor's hat. His vanilla-frosted birthday cake was decorated with multicolored train figurines.

By age 10, he was volunteering in the model-train room at the museum. The director there confirmed that Dowdy was a volunteer, but did not want to say more.

While growing up, Dowdy played with a train simulator computer game, which taught him the ins and outs of working a train.

''I love my son, and he has a good heart and is very bright,'' Combs said. ``I'm not saying what he did was right, but I don't think he meant any harm. He just loves trains.''

Contact Robert Samuels at

Reports of negligence fuel pain after Metrolink crash
Disclosures may help increase compensation awards, experts say. Metrolink and Connex, the company that employed the engineer, are suing each other over which bears liability.
By Rich Connell
March 16, 2009 Los Angeles Times Los Angeles, California

The recent drumbeat of news about the reckless behavior and questionable oversight of the Metrolink engineer suspected of causing last year's Chatsworth rail disaster has reverberated painfully for Claudia Souser. She followed media reports as federal investigators publicly questioned rail officials over two days of hearings in Washington earlier this month.

"As each disclosure came, you realized how much the safety of your family was compromised," said the mother of three, who lost her husband of nearly 30 years -- and the family's breadwinner -- when Metrolink 111 collided with a freight train six months ago.
That sort of sentiment, coupled with disturbing details about Metrolink operations and the circumstances surrounding the crash, is spilling into the court battle over who should compensate victims like Souser and her children and how much they are due. Legal experts say findings that Metrolink engineer Robert M. Sanchez sent and received hundreds of on-duty cell phone text messages, allowed teenage rail fans into locomotive cabs, and may have failed to properly call and confirm crucial signals are likely to bolster damage claims expected to total hundreds of millions of dollars. Metrolink's own abrupt decision last week to topple two top managers accused of failing to adequately supervise Sanchez and other rail workers underscored safety problems, experts said.

"We're getting admissions right and left," said Georgene Vairo, a professor at Loyola Law School. "What the train engineer was doing appears to be grossly negligent."

The question now, she said, is: "Who's going to take the fall . . . knowing that money's going to get paid?"
Sanchez was text-messaging about the time he sailed through a red light and hit a Union Pacific freight train head-on, investigators have said. The engineer and 24 passengers were killed. More than 130 were injured and dozens hospitalized, some with serious internal damage.
Metrolink, a five-county, taxpayer-subsidized rail agency, and Connex Railroad, the private company hired to provide engineers and conductors on the commuter system, are suing each other. Each contends the other is required to pay its liability costs. Recent disclosures could put both entities on the hook for losses that could reach -- or challenge and exceed -- a federal $200-million cap on compensation awards for rail accidents, according to liability law experts and victims' lawyers."
All this stuff is important," said attorney Ed Pfiester, who represents relatives of three riders who died and 19 injured passengers. "The more facts that come out about this egregious conduct . . . it makes it easier to show by clear and convincing evidence the lack of oversight of drivers."
Some of the most powerful accusations have come from Metrolink itself. After Sanchez's activities were detailed at the National Transportation Safety Board hearing in Washington, Metrolink removed two Connex employees from duties connected to Metrolink operations.The removal of the managers was essential, Metrolink officials said. "I had zero confidence these people should be out there doing what needs to be done to prevent these things from happening," said Metrolink board Chairman Keith Millhouse. But Metrolink's own role in front-line personnel matters also was called into question. Connex, which defends its managers and insists that it has been diligent about safety, said Metrolink asked it to retain engineers and managers -- including the executives ordered removed last week -- when the firm took over train operations from Amtrak in 2005.
"Metrolink gave the Good Housekeeping seal of approval to all of these people," said attorney Mark O. Hiepler, who represents Souser and 11 other crash victims and relatives. The scope of potential liability won't be known for months. More than 125 claims for damages have been filed with Metrolink, many without a dollar amount attached. At least seven lawsuits already have been filed. Victims now may be better positioned to argue for special punitive damages, said professor John Nockleby, director of Loyola Law School's Civil Justice Program. Federal investigative reports say that Sanchez sent and received about 350 text messages while on duty in the days before the crash. "That seems to be reckless indifference to the safety" of passengers, Nockleby said. Plaintiffs attorneys say they expect to challenge the $200-million liability cap, which Congress imposed to help keep passenger rail afloat. Even if the cap holds, Metrolink's insurance coverage at the time of the accident was for a maximum of $150 million. If the agency is found fully liable for losses or has to cover judgments against Connex, it might have to come up with tens of millions of additional dollars, records and interviews show. Facing rising insurance premiums and concluding that the chances of a catastrophic accident did not justify the extra cost, Metrolink trimmed its coverage from $200 million to $150 million several years ago, records show. After the Chatsworth crash, it boosted coverage back to $200 million, the federal cap level. Connex, a fourth-tier subsidiary of a multibillion-dollar international behemoth, Veolia Environment, has not disclosed the amount of its insurance coverage.

Amtrak to host train day in D.C., three cities
by Tierney Plumb, Staff Reporter
Thursday, March 19, 2009 Washington Business Journal Washington, DC
Amtrak will hold its second annual National Train Day in May to mark the 140th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

On May 9, Amtrak will host free events in four of its gateway stations across the U.S. -- D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles -- from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The transcontinental railroad was officially created on May 10, 1869, when a golden spike was driven into the tie that connected the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways at Promontory Point, Utah.

At Union Station, festivities will include live music, interactive green exhibits, VIP appearances, a kids section, and model train and art exhibits.
Communities across the U.S. will also develop and host their own events.

Members of Amtrak’s loyalty program, which lets frequent train travelers earn points redeemable for free travel, can earn double points for any trip between March 16 and May 8 and quadruple points for any trip taken on May 9.

Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system.

Model train club small, but dedicated
By Mindy Honey, Society Editor
March 27, 2009 Branson Daily News Branson, Missouri
Like the seven other members of the White River Valley Modular Railroad Club, Tim Townsend loves trains.The model-train club started just more than two years ago.
“We are train nuts,” Townsend said. The club meets twice a month below TPA Hobby Center in Hollister, a place members call White River Valley Depot.
The club has created a mini-railroad to display at shows like the recent Tri-Lakes Building and Home Show. There, the club had a 12-by-12 foot display. “We built all the modulars in one of the club member’s locations until we had (the Hollister location),” Townsend said.
The club’s goal is to share ideas about model building, scenery and safety, including wiring. Members are dedicated to promoting the hobby, as well.
“You don’t want to skimp on it,” Townsend said. Members hope to soon turn the White River Valley Depot into a museum and make it a place people can view the working display. Townsend said members would like to see the museum open by early summer. The owner of TPA Hobby Center is also helping and will be bringing in some of his own items to display in the museum.
Not only are the members looking to share what they enjoy with locals and visitors, but to also attract more members. Townsend said the only thing they ask of members is to be “interested in the hobby of building a train table for themselves and the club. We’ll show them if they want to learn,” he said.
He said the club is a place where anyone who loves model trains can do what they love to do with others. “We are in it for the simple enjoyment,” he said.
Club members take their hobby seriously.
“In the club situation, we are always trying to be on the cutting edge of the industry and that is why we went with the DDC,” he said. DDC, Townsend said, is the remote control the club uses, which can run up to 99 locomotives. The club uses HO-gauge layout, what Townsend described as the most popular size. He said members, though, are welcome to use whatever gauge they like.“We are very happy to find prospective members to share what we know and find out what they know,” Townsend said. “We are finding there are a lot of people out there with layouts we never knew of before.”

Townsend said he hopes others can find the joy in model trains like he has. “I got involved 50 years ago, just by building models,” he said. “It is the freedom of designing and building something to create a scene, a particular memory, a place or a dream.”
He estimates he owns in excess of 2,000 models. “I collect out-of-dates and mistakes the manufacturer would have done in production,” he said. “I like unique designs.”

Caboose to become railroad museum
March 23, 2009 Whitehall Beacon Whitehall, Michigan
The historic railroad caboose displayed on the lawn at the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce office, will soon become a small railroad museum.

The caboose is located on the property of the chamber office which, itself, is a former railroad depot located at 124 E. Hanson St., Whitehall.

In the late 1980s, the railroad track through Whitehall was abandoned, and is now a part of a paved bicycle and walking pathway.

Chamber board member, Helen Fink, is spearheading the railroad museum project. “The caboose has been used for storage (by the chamber) for many years,” says Fink. “We thought it should be used to enhance our community.”

The plans are to restore the interior and exterior of the caboose to their original appearance, and make the interior a small walk through railroad museum. The success of the museum is dependent on community support. The chamber is asking for help to outfit the car.

“We all have things in our attic or garage that are just gathering dust,” says Fink. “It would be wonderful if those who have railroad antiques or memorabilia would donate them to the museum or put them on loan. While we need everything, we especially need a stove, lanterns, seat cushions, an ice box, and other things used by the crew.”

Fink started the project by enlisting the help of the Muskegon Railroad Historical Society, a small group who preserve the memories and mystique of railroading and operate a few model train set-ups in a clubhouse on the second floor of a downtown Muskegon office building. The members offered their enthusiastic support.

They soon provided the serial number for the Chamber's caboose(C&O 90702) and followed up with access to C&O historians in Virginia who are helping to provide a history of the car and an accurate description for restoration.

“We are planning to have a grand opening on June 1,” says Fink. “I won't be surprised if there are many from Muskegon and a few from Virginia in attendance, all dressed in their railroading outfits.”

Anyone with information about the history of the caboose or items that might be useful for the museum is asked to call Fink at 231-893-5323.

CSX upgrade signals end of era
By Dorothy Schneider
March 25, 2009 Lafayette/West Lafayette, Indiana

Pieces of history are being removed from along the CSX railroad in Tippecanoe and Montgomery counties.

That's how Randy Rogers of Frankfort views the replacement of the traditional semaphore signals on an 18-mile stretch of railroad between South Raub and Crawfordsville this week.

Semaphores, which have been in use nearly as long as railroads have been around, are mechanical arms mounted on top of posts. The position of the arm tells the train operator whether to stop or go.

Semaphore signals were part of the pole line system that sent railroad signals through telegraph lines connected between towers. They are being replaced by newer technology, which runs communication signals through the rails or through modern towers that show red, yellow and green lights.

Basically, the railroad signals are going wireless.

But the loss of the semaphore signals is sad for enthusiasts like Rogers, who said he's been interested in railroads since age 2 and is president of the North and Central Indiana Railroads group.

"They're living history," Rogers said. "They're magical and kind of mysterious. People are fascinated by the fact that they're still there."

CSX spokesman Gary Sease said the semaphores, some of which have been in place along the area tracks since 1917, have been very reliable.

"But it's time for a change," he said.

The lines that ran to the semaphore signals were susceptible to wind and weather damage, but the new radio technology won't be.

Rogers said he really got into studying the former Monon Railroad and its semaphores after he graduated from Purdue University. Since the 1990s, he has spent time along the tracks getting pictures of trains going through the signals.

He was struck by the fact that the signals were in use at the same time they were on display in local railroad museums, including the Linden Depot Museum, 18 miles south of Lafayette.

There are few semaphore signals used anywhere else in the world today, Rogers said. Sease called the retirement of the semaphore signals the "end of an era."

"It's been a successful era, but one that changes with the times," he said. "Our people are focused on the newest technologies that are even more reliable."

For A Laugh (emails from internet friends)

Differences between Grandpa's and Grandma's
A friend, who worked away from home all week, always made a special effort with his family on the weekends. Every Sunday morning he would take his 7-year old granddaughter out for a drive in the car for some bonding time. Just he and his granddaughter.One particular Sunday however, he had a bad cold and really didn't feel like being up at all. Luckily, his wife came to the rescue and said that she would take their granddaughter out.
When they returned, the little girl anxiously ran upstairs to see her grandfather. 'Well, did you enjoy your ride with grandma?'

'Oh yes, Pa Pa' the girl replied, 'and do you know what? We didn't see a single dumb bastard or lousy butthead anywhere we went today!'

Never choke in a restaurant in Arkansas
Two hillbillies walk into a bar. While having a shot of whisky, they talk about their moonshine operation.

Suddenly, a woman at a nearby table, who is eating a sandwich, begins to cough. After a minute or so, it becomes apparent that she is in real distress.

One of the hillbillies looks at her and says, "Kin ya swallar?"

The woman shakes her head no. Then he asks, "Kin ya breathe?"

The woman begins to turn blue and shakes her head no. The hillbilly walks over to the woman, lifts up her dress, yanks down her drawers and quickly gives her right butt cheek a lick with his tongue. The woman is so shocked that she has a violent spasm and the obstruction flies out of her mouth.

As she begins to breathe again, the hillbilly walks slowly back to the bar. His partner says, "Ya know, I'd heerd of that there 'Hind Lick Maneuver' but I ain't niver seed nobody do it!"

What do you want out of life?
A teacher asked her class, "What do you want out of life?"

A little girl in the back row raised her hand and said, "All I want out of life is four little animals."

The teacher asked, "Really and what four little animals would that be sugar?"

The little girl said, "A mink on my back, a jaguar in the garage, a tiger in the bed and a jackass to pay for all of it."

I Just Don’t Understand Why…
…do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front?

…do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke? banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters? we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage?

…do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight?

…do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering?

…does the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?

…can’t women put on mascara with their mouth closed?

…do you never see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?

…is 'abbreviated' such a long word?

…is it that doctors call what they do 'practice'?

…is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?

…is the man who invests all your money called a ‘broker’?

…is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

…is there no mouse-flavored cat food?

…didn’t Noah just swat those two mosquitoes?

…do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections.

…don’t they make airplanes out of that indestructible material used on the black box?

…don’t sheep shrink when it rains?

…are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

…if con is the opposite of pro, then is Congress the opposite of progress?

…if flying is so safe, do they call the airport the terminal?

…do we park in a driveway, yet drive on a parkway?

…do women wear a pair of panties but only one bra?

Up-Coming Shows in the Area

4th Annual Collis P. Huntington Model Railroad Show – April 3 – 5, 2009, Dunbar Parks & Recreation Center, 2601 Fairlawn Ave (I-64 exit #53), Dunbar WV. Operating layouts, railroad memorabilia, and Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise. Friday 5-8pm, Saturday 9am-7pm, Sunday 11am-4:30pm. Adult $4.00, Children $3.00. For info: 304-523-8192 or 304-523-0364 or email at:

Great Scale Model Train Show – April 4-5, 2009, Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium, MD. Saturday 9am-4pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. Adults $9.00, Children under 15, free. For info: email

22nd Annual Upper Valley Model Railroad Show – April 5, 2009, Lebanon High School, Lebanon, NH. 10Am-4pm. Admission: TBD. For info: email at:

7th Annual Franklin Model & Toy Train Sale & Show – May 3, 2009, Littell Community Center, Rt 23 & 517, Franklin, NJ, 9am-3pm. Adults $4.00, Children under 12 free. For info: John 973-697-6539 or visit