Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
City Range Steak House, Greenville, SC
February 13, 2010 Open - 1:24 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Art Peterson, Jim Frierson, Gene Owens, & Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Martin will contact Gene about working with Owen Evans on the newsletter
  • Martin will continue to work with Bob Bischoff to create a SC Sample Service Brochure
  • Martin and Bob will select a location and set up the April meeting in Charlotte
1. Gene Owens - (Columnist and former associate editor of the Virginian-Pilot, and managing editor of the Mobile Press-Register) Mr. Owens provided an entertaining account of his rail travels in Europe. On the Siberian Express which was noisy, not too clean and not in good repair, he found vodka, caviar and something that looked like grits in abundant supply. During most of the trip the train passed through open and mostly empty country with occasional huts and cultivated fields. Gene was surprised to find that women did much of the cleaning and track work. Other women sold vegetables train side to supplement the onboard diet. Highlights of the trip were a party before reaching the terminal in Novosibirsk and a shower afterwards.

In 1981 Gene traveled what he felt were “haunted rails” from East Berlin to Warsaw. During World War II these same rails carried the German Wehrmacht to battle in Poland and carried Jews back to concentration camps in Germany. These passengers saw what he was seeing now and they might even have traveled in the same cars. Forty years after the war, NATO and the Warsaw Pact glare at each other over this same territory where seemingly silly restrictions limit photography and misunderstandings quickly lead to the confiscation of passports. Poland, he said, has been described as a flat Catholic country between Germany and Russia which accounts for much of its history. Several people he met felt that in the 1980’s Poland’s future still did not look bright.

Riding the Orient Express from Vienna to Budapest did not feel as exotic as the movies would lead one to expect. There was no mysterious blonde in the adjoining compartment and no suspicious men in overcoats passed thought the car. However, some of the mystique returned when a body was taken off the train at one of the stops. The trip passed through Austria, which looked in many places like the American Midwest, and Slovakia and Hungary filled with wildlife and well-kept villages. The trip ended in Budapest near the Danube which unfortunately was brown and not blue.

2. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood distributed the minutes of the December 12 meeting via e-mail to Board members and as hardcopy at the meeting. As the meeting was very small, the minutes could not be approved. Phil reported that he had presented the ‘Resolution’ to the Newberry City Council where it was unanimously approved. He was invited to discuss passenger rail service on the radio in Newberry a few days letter, and a recent article in the ‘Newberry Observer’ discussed the potential for passenger rail service in the area. Phil reported that we have thus far received 11 signed Resolutions. We sent a signed copy of the GO21 resolution (copy attached to October 2009 minutes) to all members of the North and South Carolina congressional delegations. It was decided that after our next meeting, Phil will send copies of the Resolutions we have received thus far to members of the SC legislative delegation.

3. Treasurer's Report - As Gene Kirkland could not attend the meeting, Martin Wheeler presented his report. As of February 5, 2010, the Association had $6,561.73 in its operating account and continues to hold $6,535 in the CAPT Challenge account for a total of $13,096.73.

4. Reports From Officers

Jim Frierson – The Greenville County Economic Development Commission is conducting a study of the use of existing rail lines for commuter rail in the Greenville area. Jim attended a recent Columbia area COG meeting at which they planned to approve the Resolution with two additional “where as” statements: one related to “the current energy situation” and one related to “the efficiency of rail transport”. Jim has also been invited to speak to the Richland County Council. Roy Tolson at SCDOT has requested a passenger rail study to accompany the earlier freight study. Tolson also supports a rail preservation program and would like to create a Rail Division within SCDOT which would bring in a new staff with expertise in freight and passenger rail. SC will elect a new governor this year and this will bring a new secretary of transportation whose views may be different.

Art Peterson – We should invite Allan Paul, Director of Rail Operations for NCDOT, to speak at a future meeting

Martin Wheeler – Martin has been invited to attend the Train Hosts’ next meeting. He has notified Don Stewart about the recent election and passed along the Board’s request to complete the brochure soon. The newsletter firms have been notified that we plan to produce the newsletter ourselves. Gene says he is close to getting one out. The SC brochure disc has been sent to Gene who will give it to John Bobinyec. Martin has discussed the sample service brochure with Bob Bischoff. They plan to portray two scenarios with potential stops and travel times (Charlotte – Columbia – Charleston) and (Columbia – Florence – Myrtle Beach).

5. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues - Martin reported that Dan Smith spoke with Owen Evans who was interested in helping with the newsletter. He does not have the time to be a full-time editor, but is willing to take on at least one issue. It was suggested that perhaps we could disseminate news on a blog, but that would not be as polished and would not be something that could be distributed at meetings. Martin will talk with Gene about this. Perhaps a blog could supplement the newsletter.

6. Update on Light Rail in Charlotte - Martin Wheeler reported that ridership is down 11.3% to 14,000 riders per day on the Blue Line. A turnover in management has brought in a new executive director with a bus background. CATS has taken a greater role in the multimodal station project. In an attempt to settle the problems with Greyhound, CATS will now buy the Greyhound property. The Blue Line extension is at 30% design, the environmental impact statement is done, and the easement for the UNCC campus has been approved. The FTA “New Starts” report listed this project as “medium”. The commuter line to the Lake Norman area applied for a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant which is a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project is basically ready to go on existing rail if money is available. NS will own the track and CATS will lease space. The 10-mile streetcar project is looking for money to start and streetcar station design meetings are coming up. Lynx will get 4 new ‘70’ cars which are certainly needed. It will be necessary to build new track for them in the yard.

7. Amtrak Update – The new Virginia trains are the only new Amtrak service. The primary work is being done at Beach Grove and Wilmington to get 111 cars and locomotives back into full service. Sleepers are being repaired and old diners are being rebuilt. For example, full diner service has been restored to the Lake Shore Limited. Amtrak plans to buy 200 new cars including diners and would like to establish a strong US builder. In addition Amtrak will need to invest in new diesel motive power. Currently P32 and P40 diesels are in use almost everywhere.

8. Update On Highspeed Rail – NC received $545 million to complete the double tracking from Charlotte to Raleigh, to support the design and construction of the Charlotte Multimodal Center, for study and planning for the Raleigh station, and money for crossovers in the Rocky Mount area on CSX.  Startup of the third Charlotte/Raleigh frequency has been delayed until May.

9. Planning for Future Meetings – Martin suggested that the state vice-presidents coordinate the location and other arrangements for meetings in their states The next meeting will be in Charlotte on April 10. Martin and Bob will select a location. Future Meetings: June – Columbia, August – Asheville, October – Myrtle Beach, December – Raleigh

Adjourn - 3:55 P.M.