Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Inspiration Station Museum, Wilson, NC
May 16, 2015 Open - 1:25
Present - Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, Jim Stevenson, Bob Bischoff, Art Peterson, John Bobinyec, Bill Cole, Leon DeBaer and Phil Astwood

Secretary's Report - In Phil Astwood's absence, Jim Frierson took minutes at the March meeting. These were accepted as read by Martin Wheeler.

Treasurer’s Report - Gene Kirkland presented the treasurer’s report for the period from January 12, 2015 to May 13, 2015. The report showed an opening balance of $4,205.94, meeting and website expenses of $385.48, and a closing balance of $3,820.46. As of May 15, 2015, the Association had 213 members. Through a means that Gene did not understand, an outside party was able to gain access to the CAPT bank account and withdraw $4,500. Less than $200 of this has been recovered, Gene has replaced the remainder.

Update on the Resolution Drive in SC in Support of Extended Rail Passenger Service - There was nothing new to report on our activities; however the SC Passenger Rail Consortium headed by Frank Ezell has developed a plan for a “mountains to the coast” rail service in SC and has sent their plan to the FRA for comment. Martin suggested that we consider another mailing to the cities and counties along the Charlotte to Charleston route letting them know that others as well as CAPT are working on a plan for rail service in their area and it would be very helpful if they signed our resolution in support or increased rail service. Phil was asked to prepare a cover letter and check out our mailing list with Jim Frierson to make sure our mailing reaches the correct officials.

Update on CAPT Fostering Creation of an Association similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail - The Board believes that if we are going to establish such an organization in NC, we are going to need guidance from those who have done so successfully in Virginia. Martin attempted without success to meet with members of the organization in Raleigh. It was suggested that VARP (Virginia Association of Rail Passengers) might be able to help. Martin will look into this. It appeared that David Robinson was going to head up the NC effort, but now it is not clear if he still intends to do so. As David said several months ago, our organization will need a full-time director, David or someone else, if it is going to be able to publicize itself, raise funds and have any influence.

Update on News in NC and SC Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service - Gene reported that the Carolinian’s 25th “birthday” was celebrated last weekend and the Piedmonts “birthdays” will be recognized this weekend. CAPT has been asked to participate in the celebration and will have materials at every station and perhaps some members to hand out the material. Gene and Leon DeBaer will be in Raleigh. There was a good turnout at the ground-breaking for the new Raleigh station. Gene also reported that the NCDOT will no longer be involved with the development of the station; the City of Raleigh will be responsible in the future. The Piedmonts have just received the last food service car and there is one more coach left that could be rebuilt. Bill Cole has prepared a list of things that need to be done to the Charlotte station (schedule boards, restroom repair, pot holes, etc). Simple decoration and placement of signs would help. Many of these things could be done by volunteers at no cost to Amtrak if the railroad would support them. Martin Wheeler said the Metropolitan Transit Commission is considering building a temporary station and adding two new tracks at the site of the new station as there are currently no public or private funds available to complete the whole project. The Commission is applying for a TIGER grant for $90 million which if received would cover the work described above.

Jim Frierson was unable to attend the meeting, but had reported earlier that SCDOT’s director of intermodal and freight programs, Doug Frate, along with other officials from Georgia, Virginia and NC, met with Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx in Raleigh on May 6 to talk about the high-speed rail compact that NC and VA set up years ago.  Georgia is considering becoming a part of it and Doug said that SC is also discussing the possibility of joining the compact.  He said that SC’s population growth pattern differs from that of the other three states so that SC “may need new types of transportation for both residents and visitors, particularly in the Charleston area.”   Nonetheless, Secretary Foxx said that he is more optimistic that high-speed rail will become a reality in the Southeast now that SC and Georgia have expressed their interest in the joint agreement. Georgia has been conducting a study on a highspeed rail connection from Atlanta to Charlotte and has proposed 6 different alignments, some of which are considerably more likely than others.  

Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues - Newsletter: We need to persuade members to update their e-mail addresses. Gene has some material for the newsletter. Ed is willing to assemble news if it is sent to him. Website: John Bobinyec asked Phil to send copies of minutes from prior meetings so they could be put on the website. Setting up PayPal to accept payment of dues is becoming a real problem. Not really related to our website, several were concerned about the ‘Chatlist’ on Yahoo which apparently needs someone to serve as a moderator.

Amtrak Update - Beyond the obvious problems resulting from the Philadelphia accident and the ongoing funding squabbles in Congress, other items include Indian’s struggle to settle a dispute with the FRA. Indiana, like North Carolina, controls all rail operations in the state and thus the FRA would like to consider them a railroad with all associated liabilities. Also significant is the experimental discontinuance of diner service on the Star to be replaced by two café cars.

Reports by Officers and Directors -

  • Leon DeBaer - First responders do not have the training to deal with train strikes. They need to know what to do to get a train going again after a strike so as to avoid extended delays. The Philadelphia accident ought to spur interest in preparedness for accident response. DuPont has a train that tours the country providing this sort of training related to chemical spills. Leon will work up a proposal for providing appropriate training for those responding to passenger train strikes. Others who are trying to do this now are not receiving any cooperation from the railroads.
  • Bob Bischoff - The streetcar has been removed from the Spencer Shops. They will begin to operate it once they have a generator to provide power. The replica cars will run on the regular light rail. Apparently the Canadian has been terminated east of Winnipeg due to track conditions.
  • Bill Cole - Spencer has become one of North America’s outstanding rail museums with many upcoming events.
  • Martin Wheeler - The latest on the Blue Line extension involves plenty of construction, bridges and utility work, but no track yet. They are turning out to be under budget so some items deleted earlier are being added back. There will be a crew base and additional maintenance in the new yard. It has been decided that Sugar Creek Road will go over NS and the light rail. There will be a pedestrian bridge to allow access over the rails. Operations on the extension should begin in the summer of 2017. Four new cars have arrived, but no more can be brought in until the yard is complete as there is currently no place to put them. The Streetcar is scheduled to start on June 29. Service will be 6AM to midnight every 15 min each way. The service will be free for the first 3 or 4 years. I went to the Orlando area in April to have a look at SunRail. Nice cars, good rail, overall a very well planned and well run operation. Passengers buy a machine dispensed ticket and swipe it on and off the train. The system is being extended on both ends.
Future Meetings - July 18 – Salisbury (Gene will try to set this up at the station), September 19 - Greensboro, Nov 21 (Annual Meeting) - Columbia
Adjourn - 3:20