Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains

CAPT Meetings    9/12/2021
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Newsletters 2021
    August     September
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FROM THE CAB - September 2021

By Martin Wheeler, President, CAPT

STREETCAR SERVICE BEGINS IN CHARLOTTE –The long-awaited launch of City LYNX Gold Line streetcar service began on Monday, August 30. The fare is free until January 2022, for the service which operates every 20 minutes from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week, in the Queen City.

Gold Line streetcar service connects the Historic West End and the Elizabeth neighborhood through Uptown Charlotte. Five modern streetcars are operating off-wire through the heart of downtown, maintaining a catenary-free zone, says the operator, the Charlotte Area Transit System. Safety is a concern as individuals become more familiar with streetcars and as roadway and sidewalk work around the system is completed.

Streetcars utilize horns and bells to communicate with pedestrians and motorists. Motorists should obey parking signage, while anyone walking, biking, or living near the streetcars must also become familiar with the rules of streetcar safety. Siemens’ hybrid technology is at work in this project.

BOARD MEMBER JIM FRIERSON TO PARTICIPATE IN RPA’S VIRTUAL FALL CONFERENCE -- Columbia’s Jim Frierson will join rail passenger advocates from around the nation September 19-21 in a virtual meeting with the goal of gaining Congressional support for “A Connected America.” The event, open to all members of the Rail Passengers Association, begins Sunday evening with an open RPA board of directors meeting.

RPA staff along with Amtrak and Federal officials will provide tools and information on how to get elected officials to take favorable passenger rail action during an all-day seminar on Monday, September 20. The next day, Mr. Frierson will reach out to South Carolina’s two U.S. Senators and seven House representatives as was done last April. Also scheduled for Tuesday will be a council business meeting and advocacy workshops.

Member cost for this “virtual” meeting is $45. Organizers are seeking to make some sessions “interactive,” to help participants learn “best practices” for interstate organizing to advance regional passenger rail priorities.

NC WELCOMES NEW OPERATIONS MANAGER -- Nicolas A. Konen has been hired as the operations manager for the North Carolina Rail Division. Mr. Konen, a professional engineer, comes to the Carolinas from BNSF Railway, where he has been serving as director of economic development.

MASK MANDATE ON AMTRAK TRAINS -- “Amtrak continues to mandate rail passengers and crews alike wear face masks to help slow the spread” of COVID-19, says Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association. The mandate reportedly has been extended until at least January 18, 2022. Importantly, officials aren’t saying “rail travel is any less safe than other forms of travel,” Mathews added.

  (+)                            North Carolina Service Changes
  (-)                   North Carolina Service Changes
Here's a timeline of recent service changes.
4/5/2021     Trains 77 & 78 resume operation.
12/14/2020     Trains 74 & 75 resume operation.
10/12/2020     Trains 73 & 76 switch from Amtrak to Piedmont equipment.
8/10/2020     Trains 73 & 76 commence with Amtrak equipment. No cafe and no baggage.
5/18/2020     Trains 79 & 80 commence without baggage.
Trains 75 & 76 suspend.
4/7/2020     Train 80 suspends.
4/6/2020     Train 79 suspends.
3/23/2020     Trains 73, 74, 77 & 78 suspend.
  (+)                            NC Bullet Train
  (-)                            NC Bullet Train

Since the spring of 2016, the Piedmonts have run with an engine at both ends. The seats in each coach have been reconfigured so that half face forward and half face backwards. When the cars were originally reconstructed, they were outfitted with multiple unit (MU) cables. These allow the engines to work together as one, even though they are located in different parts of the train.

This configuration started during track construction for the new Raleigh station since there was no way to turn the trains there at that time. Afterwards, in June 2018, it helped to utilize this configuration when the fourth frequency between Raleigh and Charlotte was added. With less time between arrivals and departures at Charlotte, there isn't enough time to turn the trains. NCDOT has purchased additional locomotives which will be refurbished, but will have the prime movers removed. These will serve as operating platforms for the engineer.

When the two newest locomotives, 1755 and 1797, are used in this push+pull operation, to me it looks like an NC version of a bullet train. Here is a video of train 73 stopping at the Cary station in late May, 2016. The video was shot by Susan Bobinyec.

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