Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Richland County Library, Columbia, SC
June 16, 2012 Open - 1:15 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Jim Frierson, David Hill, Earl Eargle, and Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Jim will get addresses for SC mayors and county council chairs along rail routes
  • Phil will prepare a cover letter and check supplies
  • Gene will check on a CAPT banner for stations
  • Martin will pass along changes suggested for banner to Gene
  • Martin, Ed and Bob will work on newsletter
1. Treasurer's Report - As Gene Kirkland was unable to attend, Martin Wheeler passed along the following brief report. There has not been significant change in the treasury since the last report. Gene will bring this report plus the next one to the High Point meeting. All of the CAPT Challenge account has been spent on the new brochure and the regular account now holds about $11,000. Membership has recently risen to about 235 due primarily to the efforts of David Hill to invite NARP members in the Carolinas to join CAPT.

2. Secretary's Report - As usual Phil Astwood sent a copy of the full minutes to board members by e-mail. Corrections were received from Jim Frierson and John Bobinyec and have been incorporated in the full minutes and this summary. Phil Astwood read the summary of the minutes from the April meeting. In order to deal with money problems in the Myrtle Beach area, Earl Eargle suggested initiating a dinner train in the area that could bring in some money. This had been tried before, but did not ever get started. Overall Earl is very discouraged by the progress made to support railroads in SC. Jim Frierson mentioned we really no longer have a rail division after Roy Tolson was reassigned. Earl Railroads in SC haul a lot of coal and as power plants are closed or converted to natural gas, a lot of loads will be lost. Several members of the Board agreed with Earl that Ray LaHood has been one of the best secretaries of transportation in years for his support of trains. Minor corrections were made, the members read over the longer version they had received via e-mail, and the minutes were approved as corrected.

3. Proposal- Earl Eargle (retired Amtrak Agent) - Brought a proposal he wanted CAPT to consider. By way of background he said he worked with the Gilbert Rail Museum in Gilbert, SC to accumulate railroad memorabilia and put it on display in a depot ticket office they had restored. The depot was moved off the tracks and used to present the railroad history of the area. It is open the first Sunday of each month from 2-5 pm and special tours are available. The project had the full support of the Town of Gilbert. He mentioned a program called On Line - Protect the Line which helps to protect tracks from vandalism and sabotage by providing a means to quickly report problems. He said he worked for 30 years in Amtrak's marketing department in charge of promotion in four states. He still does all he can to support rail as the best way to move freight and passengers and was recently pleased to see the 97,000 pound limit for trucks defeated. He sees progress when trucking companies such as JB Hunt go intermodal. He explained that the proposal he wants to present is a means to raise money when CAPT participates in trade shows or has an exhibit somewhere. He proposes that CAPT sell a CD he has produced entitled People Trains & Things In Bluegrass" a diversified bluegrass CD by the Lucas & Harmon Brothers... The CD contains an historical collection of railroad songs including-"The Southern Crescent"; "Turbo Train" (Historical Tour in song); "People Trains"; "Auto-Train"; and "Trail Of Tears" (The Original). There are a total of 12 selections.Each CD packet includes a 4 page descriptive booklet and the CD cover has a large colored picture of the Turbo Train. At the end of each month CAPT will receive a check with the name of each person placing an order for a CD. Each CD sold will earn CAPT $3.00. He will need to know where to send the check. Also, to boost CAPT membership, he will enclose a CAPT brochure with any order not from one of our members. He will need about 25 brochures or some type of promotional material from CAPT to start. He suggested that train hosts could promote the CDs on board and there could be promotional material available at stations. He said that the CD is pro-train and yet has some diversity to kindle interest that will help get our train message across just the same. He said that for non- member CAPT orders we should simply leave CAPT off in the order form and he will know it is from a non-CAPT member and will enclose CAPT promotion material. He suggested that the following could be used to promote the CD: ALL ABOARD!!! ALL ABOARD!!! You can help in the fight to improve and expand Rail Passenger Train Service in the Carolinas and America and enjoy some fine bluegrass music in the process!!! "People Trains & Things In Bluegrass" a diversified bluegrass CD by the Lucas & Harmon Brothers is now available! This historical collection includes-"The Southern Crescent"; "Turbo Train" (Historical Tour in song); "People Trains"; "Auto-Train"; "Trail Of Tears" (The Original); Total of 12 selections in this historical CD collection which has now been placed in The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as an official original archive collection. Each CD packet includes a 4 page descriptive booklet. The CD Cover has a large colored picture of the Turbo Train. (A monetary portion of each order will be donated to CAPT to help in the Fight To Improve And Expand Rail Passenger Service In The Carolinas). ALL ABOARD! Join CAPT Today!!! After some discussion, Martin agreed to check with the whole Board and solicit opinion on this proposal.

4. Update on Legislation in North Carolina and South Carolina affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Funding - Martin reported that the SC legislature is ending its session for the year. NC's legislature is in mini session this year in which adjustments are made in the two-year budget adopted last year. Funds had previously been approved, but not yet appropriated for the Blue Line extension and there is a current effort in the Senate to withhold these funds. This and several other funding issues such as bridge repair and free ferry service will go to a conference committee this weekend where objections may well be dropped. If necessary, President Obama has offered to come to NC to sign the federal portion of the funding.

5. Update on the Resolution Drive in South Carolina in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Service, and Additional Inserts for the Resolution Drive Brochure - Phil talked about on-line and pre-meeting discussions in which it was decided that it would not be appropriate to send information to SC legislators at this time as they are busy and close to the end of the session. However, this might be the time to send copies of the SC brochure and proposed schedules to mayors and county council chairs in those cities and towns mentioned in the inserts, or perhaps to the whole list that we used before. Jim has agreed to update this list to reflect recent elections. Earl suggests we look at a route from Charlotte to Columbia to Augusta and then Atlanta. CAPT has always supported this route. Martin - Perhaps we should mail only to cities and town that are up to 10 miles away from the routes listed on the inserts. We can do this now and mail to the legislators after Christmas. Earl mentioned that the TEA party seems to support trucks over rail. Phil will prepare a cover letter and check on supplies.

6. Update on Recent Push by Central Midlands Coalition for a Columbia-Charlotte Connection to the High Speed Rail Service - Jim reported that nothing is currently happening. The COG does have a rail committee, but they have not met in a very long time.

7. Discussion of Ways to Distribute the New CAPT Brochure - Martin reported that Gene Kirkland is working on ways to distribute brochures at welcome centers as well as at Amtrak stations in NC and SC. Perhaps we should visit the stations in our areas and make sure we can place brochures there. Martin showed a mock-up for the station banner. Board members decided it needs to have a larger title and lettering to say that it is a proposal. Is it too large for stations? Earl pointed out that we need to make sure our congressmen know that trains are important. Perhaps schools are the place to start letting people know that trains exist. Gene will find out for sure where it has been approved to place the banners.

8. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website - Website - Martin mentioned that we have discussed online payment of dues. A note from John Bobinyec said he got the needed information, but he will have to work with software for a month or two before he is sure it will work dependably. Nothing has been approved yet. Newsletter - Martin said they have plenty of information and it would be easy to get out a larger issue. They will put much of this information on the website. Jim Have we considered a quarterly newsletter? Martin Our plan is to send it out bi-monthly.

9. Amtrak Update - Martin -- two most important issues at present are: 1. The Surface Transportation Act renewal which is going nowhere and the current continuing resolution will expire June 30. The primary obstacle to approval seems to be the Keystone Pipeline. NARP supports several provisions in the bill including federal support for rail line preservation. Earl - Only the Senate seems interested in trains. 2. The second issue is Amtrak's budget for the coming year. The amounts suggested for operations and capital improvements differ between the House and Senate. In addition, the House zeros out high speed rail, the Senate includes $100 million. The House eliminates TIGER grants; the Senate has $500 million for these. House and Senate appropriators will try to reconcile these two budgets.

10. North Carolina Transit Update - Martin had nothing new about Triangle Transit or the Greensboro area. CATS is now evaluating a piggy back order with Portland Oregon which is planning to order 70 or more new cars, and CATS could get 18 (or perhaps 22) cars for the Blue Line extension at Portlands price if the orders were placed together at Siemens. They must exercise this option by Sept 30 and probably will. NS is relocating an intermodal yard to the airport which will be complete by the end of 2013. Current yard is being offered to CATS who would like it sooner. It will become a holding yard to stage trains at the north end and have a crew facility, but no maintenance facilities. The new line will require a lot of utility line relocation along North Tryon Street. CATS feels that it can be done on time. Red line to Mooresville is attracting some opposition from NS stockholders who feel NS is putting too much into passenger service. In fact, NS is requesting payment for everything they do. No federal funds are available for commuter lines like this so they are trying for special area funding, or tax increment funding.

11. Reports by Officers and Directors -
  • Martin Wheeler - Gastonia is putting more funding into a new multimodal station. Christine Wilkinson is now permanent director of CARTA. We will put something into the newsletter about Bill McIlwain who died recently. I sent the SC brochure and inserts to Doug Frate at SCDOT to be included in the statewide rail plan. Earl Local trains we propose could also handle mail. Sarah Nuckles is no longer a DOT commissioner. W.B. Cook from Gaffney will replace her. Piedmonts to have wi-fi by fall. NCDOT put out an April report on Piedmont projects: Cary station expansion is finished, the Burlington platform extension is finished, two locomotives have been rebuilt, and the High Point station improvements are being completed. There will be electronic messaging at all stations, and a canopy will be built at Kannapolis. They are finishing up refurbishing of passenger coaches. All of this should be done by early next year. The new maintenance facility should be complete in Charlotte by 2014. Several track projects and grade separations are planned for the next few years. Greensboro-Charlotte double tracking must be complete by 2017. Pat Simmons has retired and will be replaced by Anthony Fuller from Amtrak in Los Angles. A developer is being solicited for Charlottes new Gateway station project. A new NCDOT active equipment list will be sent out. List will also include inactive equipment.
12. Planning for Future Meetings - August 11 - High Point (Gene will be asked to do this), October 13 - Spartanburg (David will do this. Check station), December 8 - Raleigh (Art has set this up Allan Paul will speak)

Adjourn - 4:00 P.M.