Sunday, May 22, 2011

Homeland Security: Time to KILL passenger train travel?

Because the philosophy of the current administration seems to be: more government interference is simply best, there is a push to remake train travel in the image of air travel.

And I'll state this up front: if America wishes to completely eliminate train travel and, further, clog up the northeast corridor to the point of a national heart attack -- then go ahead.

Institute the strictures on trains such as currently exist for aircraft.

Mr Obama, you bleeding idiot.

This stems from the recent raid of a compound, in Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was located and subsequently killed. Intelligence take from that raid, executed by US Navy SEAL Team 6, included digital evidence (from various laptops) indicating the next focus of al Qaeda might be on train transportation.

Information taken from Osama bin Laden's compound after his death is revealing details of al-Qaida's plans, including a potential plot against U.S. rail lines.

That means tighter security on rail lines everywhere. An alert to law enforcement officials in all 50 states has been sent out.

Mass transit has remained a target. It is the most vulnerable, according to Homeland Security officials and has been the focus of numerous terrorist plots in the U.S.

Could a 2007 sabotage incident targeting Metra be part of a terrorist plot? That's the question authorities are asking after information about a plot targeting trains was found in the paperwork or computer hard drives seized by Navy SEALs during the raid that killed bin Laden.

In 2007, several railroad spikes were removed from the tracks used by Metra's Electric and South Shore lines. Despite a $50,000 reward, the FBI has not found those responsible.

"It is still an active case. Fortunately, we haven't had any other circumstances like this since then, and we will continue to be very vigilant in surveying all of our property," said Judy Pardonnet, Metra spokesperson.

Video here:

The response to the information, from our federal government, in part:

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — Sen. Charles Schumer is calling for better rail security now that the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound has turned up plans to attack trains in the U.S.

“Anyone, even a member of al-Qaida could purchase a train ticket and board an Amtrak train without so much as a question asked,” Schumer said. “So that’s why I’m calling for the creation of an Amtrak no ride list. That would take the secure flight program and apply it to Amtrak trains.”

The "secure flight program." Perfect. Let's create que lines for each and every Amtrak stop.

You'd have to arrive, at minimum, an hour early for your ride.

You'd be subject to a background check -- otherwise, how could a "No Ride" list be created?

Which means your name would be in a larger national database.

There would be shoe and accessory removal, pat-downs, magnetometers and, of course, full body scanners.

And if you DIDN'T do that for EVERY stop, then what would be the point?

Frankly, I couldn't care less if proposed edicts like that froze the entire eastern seaboard. I don't live there and I don't have to make a daily train commute so it means nothing to me.

The northeast corridor would be the largest affected. But also, obviously, affected would be other population centers to include various Amtrak/commuter-related lines in my state, California, as well.

But because I don't live in a high-population center -- again -- I couldn't care less if everything freezes like the worst clotted heart attack.

American Government, you want to completely KILL train travel? You go right ahead. Stop commuters. Treat train passengers like air travelers.

Let's just see, America, how damned far you get.

Good luck with that.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Reverse Running & A Covert Train Meet!

A 'unique" one-in-a-million" video:

Reverse running over Donner Pass on the Number 1 track!

I knew that a double stack train was coming uphill from Colfax, and managed to get ahead of the train near Alta. The train appeared to be slowing with the grade, and this gave me time to access a little-known point that takes some serious climbing through brush, over a water district canal and up a loose tumble of ballast.

Recently, due to track work, UP had been moving eastbound (uphill) trains through the crossovers in Gold Run and onto the #1 (downhill) track. I noticed this double stack was running on its proper #2 (eastbound, uphill) track and anticipated my camera placement accordingly.

As the double stack was rumbling by my Flip HD, I got a rather large surprise. It got passed by Amtrak's California Zephyr #6 on the track furthest from me! This was the first time in almost 20 years that I'd ever seen two trains running in the same direction on both tracks!

Clearly, Amtrak #6 had been routed through the crossovers in Gold Run from the #2 to the #1 track, in order to get by the much slower double stack train.

I missed the numbers on the Amtrak units, but the following four locomotives were affixed to the double stack train:

On point was UP 7417, a GE C45ACCTE (controlled tractive effort) unit with 4,400 hp, AC driven, manufactured in 2009, one of 124 such units purchased by UP.

Directly behind was UP 4459, an EMD SD70M, DC driven, 4,000 hp, manufactured in 2001, one of 420 such units purchased by Union Pacific.

There was a mid-train DPU helper, UP 5566 (look for it at 1:53 in the video), which is a GE C44ACCTE, 4,390 hp, AC traction motors, manufactured in 2004, one of 141 such units purchased by UP.

Pushing from the rear was UP 7690, a GE C45ACCTE distributed power unit (DPU) with 4,400 hp, manufactured in 2007, AC driven, one of 200 such units purchased by Union Pacific.

You have to look quickly in order to see the passing Amtrak units. I caught as much of the Amtrak train as I could between various well cars. Check for the locomotives on the far track at 1:43 in the video.

A covert train meet? It certainly was. And once again I somehow managed to capture such a thing on video. Extremely, extremely rare on Union Pacific's Roseville Subdivision over Donner Pass.

Take care and be safe!