• 31 May 2011

    Intermodal madness

    Recently, a pro-H.S.R. piece appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . Long-time columnist Bob Ray Sanders indicated his strong support for a "bullet train" project, linking various metropolitan regions along the "Texas Triangle," including Houston, San Antonio, Austin and "Dallas/Fort Worth" (however that location is eventually defined). Certainly, my general opinions concerning this...
    • 24 May 2011

    Facing the future

    I'm really not much on doomsday scenarios. Having been born and reared in Dallas, Texas - and living through the death of John F. Kennedy - I've heard enough conspiracy theories to last a lifetime. I'm also not a prophet "nor the son of a prophet" (ref.: Amos 7:14), so I claim no prognosticative abilities. So, why should I tend to side with those who are concerned that "Peak Oil"...
    • 17 May 2011

    No turning back

    Yep, that was the front page headline of today's Dallas Morning News : "No turning back." So sorry; we've already gone too far, spent too much money, made too many plans. We can't stop now. The subject in question is the rebuilding of Lyndon Baines Johnson Freeway (Interstate 635), the non-toll controlled access loop around Dallas. [I'm afraid it's necessary to qualify what sort of...
    • 10 May 2011

    142 years - and counting

    Often, a culture's defining history - its "mythology," if you will - fails to live up to its hype. Oh, but when it does and the stories are not only based upon reality but also possess substance...well, it can be a wondrous thing! I never grow tired hearing of Tom Thumb's race, of Casey Jones' "trip to the Promised Land," or of "the Day of Two Noons." Tales of technological...
    • 3 May 2011

    In search of the temperate zealot

    Well, the anti-tax zealots are at it again, with their weapons focused (as is so often the case) upon railway technology. [You know, I've often wondered where all our Libertarian friends were hiding when the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (a.k.a. the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act) was enacted. Hmmm...] This time, their target is North Carolina, whose progressive railroad transport achievements...
    • 21 Apr 2011

    A great Old Man

    "The moment that this Company forgets that its duty is to be at the head of the list of carrying companies of the United States and ceases to have the ambition to become the first in the world, that moment do I wish to pass from its management." George B. Roberts, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, 1 880-1897 What qualities tend to be found in a great leader? How many of those desired attributes...
    • 5 Apr 2011

    A father's love

    Your kind indulgence is requested as I reminisce. I don't pretend to know all the reasons for this sudden desire. Perhaps it's the fact that my mother died less than three weeks ago. My family and I just buried our favourite uncle, too. Often, major events compel us to recall life stories. I do know that time is fleeting and the temporal things we hold dear will fade away. In the process, our remembrances...
    • 15 Mar 2011

    Bad Time

    I like time - the very concept of it. I enjoy its history and the methods by which its passage is computed. I appreciate printed timetables and the schedules contained therein, as well as the operational discipline required in adhering to them. I own several mechanical time pieces, too, from pocket watches to a grandfather clock - and have been known to listen to radio station WWV, just for fun! I especially...
    • 12 Jan 2011

    Oh, to be compliant

    It may simply be a sign of getting old, I suppose. One believes he knows and understands certain concepts, only to discover that some of the rules have changed whilst he slept (metaphorically, of course). In the 45 years that the F.R.A. has been in existence (yes...that's forty five years !), they've been fairly straightforward concerning the issue of equipment safety compliance. In fact, from my perspective...
    • 4 Jan 2011

    My wish list

    As we begin the 21st century's second decade and enter destinations unknown (tempus fugit, man!), I though it might be sobering to create a wish list of sorts: a compilation of, say, the top ten things I'd enjoy adding to our society's growing catalogue of concerns. It's a depressing thought, but this piece could have just as easily been written ten years ago. Worse yet is the realisation that my list...
    • 29 Dec 2010

    Operation greeting card

    You know, "common horse sense" really isn't that common! People do things all the time which, upon investigation, seem to absolutely defy reason. Understandably, these things can even become a bit personal simply because of what they involve. For example, during this past year alone, my family and I received three greeting cards in the mail (two for Christmas and one graduation announcement last May...
    • 29 Nov 2010

    A sense of pride

    Question: If a commercial airline held some sort of contest and part of their grand prize package included the shipment of freight, would the company specify rail-based transport in the movement of those goods? I think we all know the answer. It would be a resounding NO ! Even if the company wasn't actively involved in air freight services, they'd either maintain complete ambiguity or indicate (at least...
    • 31 Aug 2010

    Whither the "freight railroad"?

    One of the more interesting phases of my career to date has been the time I found myself the only railroader in an office full of marketers. That job lasted four years, eight months and 18 days - not that I was counting at the time! It was actually pretty interesting and, as my college days included some marketing and advertising courses, I already knew a few ways to effectively communicate with my fellow worker bees...
    • 26 Aug 2010

    And then, the Feds blinked

    Passenger trains? So much for the Obama administration's "sense of urgency." The U.S. Department of Transportation has not only solidified its reputation for ineptitude when dealing with railroad matters; they've also proven incapable of playing a decent game of poker ! On the one hand, we had the Washington elite. On the other, a group of sober-minded and responsible businessmen. And the bureaucrats...
    • 28 Jul 2010

    Interesting, but not useful

    Honestly, I was hoping my negativism had been temporarily exhausted! I felt sure the time had come to outline specific improvements, so we could begin making our presumed railroad passenger renaissance something other than a trite catchphrase. Sadly, at least one more venture down the road of despair is needful. Two questions, if I may: What is Amtrak's role in tomorrow's transportation world? More to...
    • 9 Jul 2010

    The myth of "Higher Speed Rail"

    "Oh! what a tangled web we weave When first we practise to deceive!" Sir Walter Scott Just the other day, an old head asked me to explain the difference between a streetcar and a light rail vehicle. I told him the distinction was far more aesthetic than technical. "Light rail" is a term born of governmental bureaucracy. Developed as a marketing tool, it has ultimately become a source of...
    • 30 Jun 2010

    High Speed Rail is not the starting point

    From birth, Amtrak has had more than its share of problems. I've always believed its biggest was a route network whose size falls far short of critical mass. "You can't get there from here" - even in the northeastern U.S. (outside of the much vaunted N.E.C.) - remains a true, if shopworn, cliche. Therefore, when well meaning people begin preaching the benefits of High Speed Rail, I simply consider...
    • 18 Jun 2010

    Obama Speed Rail

    Professionally, I am a Railroader, not a writer. I don't always know how to schedule the publishing of a column, or when to give myself a few extra days for anger to subside. I, too, am aware of the Biblical admonition to "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought...: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter." [Ecclesiastes 10:20] Even so, there are...
    • 30 Apr 2010

    Passengers: the "greatest threat"

    About one week ago, CSX's V.P. for public safety, Howard R. Elliott, told members of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that, based upon information his railroad has "received from federal intelligence sources," the "greatest terrorist threat to CSXT comes from the approximately 8 million passenger and commuter train miles each year that operate on CSXT-owned rail lines.”...
    • 31 Mar 2010

    ODOT versus ideology

    I suppose the danger always exists. A simple advocate develops into a "true believer," then, taking the plunge, finally becomes an ideologue. By remaining aware of that possibility, perhaps I'll escape such a fate. Besides, I enjoy my cognitive, volitional, creative abilities! These matters recently came to mind as I considered my knee-jerk responses to ideology in action: the ongoing fight by some...
    • 28 Mar 2010

    KDOT versus reality

    Sometimes, it's really difficult to be an unqualified supporter of Amtrak. [Honestly, I'm tempted to claim it's always difficult, just to varying degrees; but, I wouldn't want to overstate the issue.] Perhaps, when it comes to Amtrak and me, the term "love/hate" would be apropos. I'm a firm believer in passenger train services of all types - and Amtrak is usually the only game in town...
    • 2 Mar 2010

    Getting over it

    Much has been said - and rightfully so, I suppose - of my continuing inability to "get over" certain things. A friend recently admonished me to "get over it" while a group of us were discussing what single decision might stand as Amtrak's "worst mistake" ever. He maintained that the rehashing of ancient history often serves no constructive purpose. [Just for the record, after much...
    • 26 Jan 2010

    Texting to death

    I must admit, this is something I'll never be able to understand. Not that I claim perfection, mind you. I have more than my share of problems! It's just that the whole idea of piloting a vehicle while distracted is so illogical, I feel it should rate as proof of insanity. And for an Engineer to place himself in such a situation is totally beyond the pale! An N.T.S.B. report was released on the 21st of...
    • 30 Dec 2009

    Kumbaya, y'all

    Technology, fashion, music, pop-culture...with me, societal trends tend to come and go with little fanfare. An exception I've noticed is my unintentional adoption of curious verbal cliches, leading to the occasional spontaneous use of "far out" in response to an engineering proposal or "well, duh !" to a politician's inanity. [Just for the record, the latter example is NOT recommended!] ...
    • 18 Dec 2009

    Of trains and jobs

    Although the Obama administration has recently shown alarming interest in the idea of expanded F.R.A. oversight, today's rail transit systems remain little more than "kissin' cousins" to our railroad industry. Steel rails, flanged wheels, standard gauge...apart from a handful of basics, few similarities exist between a double-stack container train and the typical streetcar. Still, to the advocate...