Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The price of deferred maintenance

Rotted railroad ties don't provide much structural support

As a long time health club owner I know how easy it is to put off routine machine maintenance to save money--especially when revenues are in steep decline. A treadmill belt start to slip occasionally and a new belt costs $300 so you try to let it go just a little longer. The liability exposure is enormous should someone get injured.

And a runaway train can do a world of hurt.
A spike works its way to freedom
This one succeeded
The question is why is this clamp not doing its job?

Somehow I just can't imagine taking a couple hundred yard amble down a runway at Barnes or Westover Air Force base and spotting loose nuts and bolts littering the airstrip.

Looks like some ties were replaced...a l-o-n-g time ago

16 comments:

Ed said...

Larry, the reason you are not sending these pictures to John Olver's Office is???

Casey Jones you better... said...

Something about a derailing in Ponziville that fits, perfectly.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0HM0RtRv-E


For all the joy you've brought to all of us.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That really IS deferred maintenance. OMG, I rode that train to DC three months ago ...

Anonymous said...

Just a case study in the upkeep of America's infrastructure.

We live in a society that is committed to the principle of "something for nothing", that we can have things, including the community resources we share, on the cheap, that if we ignore problems (and maintenance), everything will still be ok.

And now we're seeing what happens.

Anonymous said...

No taxes but Washington fix my railroad. Priceless.

Ed said...

Long breath....

Of course the answer is always more taxes -- yes of course it is...

Folks, this is PRIVATE PROPERTY -- it is owned by the New England Central Railroad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England_Central_Railroad -- and Amtrak pays money to run its train over these tracks.

The only tracks that Amtrak itself owns are from Springfield to New Haven -- the three point turn in Palmer is because the train goes from NECR to CSX tracks (and no one would build the thousand feet of track between the two systems).

And all this money that is going to railroads -- it is going to private corporations who do not necessarily have to have the public interest at heart -- no more than the big employers who get tax breaks and then move to China -- seem to remember a solar power company doing that recently.

Now, in fairness, I remember how badly maintained the B&M lines into Boston were in the late '70s when it was almost like riding a boat -- and it is clearly visible that they have done quite a bit of work recently. That is new ballast. When you put in new ties, you don't bother recovering the old spikes and such, and then when you align the rails (literally lift & shake), some of the scrap iron pieces (sometimes a century old) will come to the surface.

Excepting the rotted tie, I have seen tracks in this shape rated for 80 MPH. And nothing pictured would cause a derailment (although I really don't like that broken ground wire).

Two derailments in the same area is bad, and John Olver ought to be asking NTSB and the FRA for some answers, he should light a fire under them to get some.

Most importantly, what is the speed limit and such on these tracks? That is Federal regs every bit as much as how much can my dump truck weigh and do I meet ICC regulations.

But folks, that doesn't mean throwing more money at Washington, it means asking them to use the money that they already have...

Ed said...

One other thing -- Stephanie et all take note -- railroads are exempt from almost all state laws under the Constitution's "Interstate Commerce" clause and Congress's decision to regulate them Federally.

It was the railroads themselves that actually requested this, along with the standardized time zones (which they created) because of the extent to which they crossed state lines and couldn't deal with conflicting and inconsistent laws.

It is the exact opposite of what happened with cars -- all license plates are the same size because all the states sat down in Michigan and agreed that each would have the same size plate with holes in the same places. And then the Federal Govt started tying highway funds to states having certain laws (like right turn on red) that met national standards.

Hence if the same trucking company had two trucks crash in Amherst inside of a month, the APD and MSP could (and would) have a lot to say about it -- they can't do this to a railroad.

Only the Feds can say anything -- and a small railroad in an area where it isn't always clear if the Feds from Boston or from Hartford ought to be dealing with it -- this is why you need John Olver to get them to act.

Ed said...

One other thing -- weren't those hopper cars that derailed this time?

What is the chance that they were involved in dropping ballast on the tracks -- if they were doing that and this occurred as part of track maintenance, that is not quite as bad a situation. Although, look at all the derailments *in* Amherst within the past decade, including the one that closed Depot Street, they do seem to have at least a lot of bad luck.

And I still want to know why there can't be (aren't) gates for Main Street and High Street. There definitely is enough vehicular traffic to justify them, and if the town had to pay for them, so what -- it improves quality of life every bit as much as purchasing that "open space" that becomes a private lawn right next to that crossing...

Anonymous said...

Intresting comment from John Musante on what he took over in Mr. Shaffer's wake....I wonder if the board was happy with his candor as they allowed Larry to "retire" and you called them on it!!

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, a hurried "retirement" where he runs off with $62,000 and his "secretary" another $23,000 in tax monies all on the same day.

And he came out of "retirement" pretty quickly to "manage" Jackson, Michigan.

Anonymous said...

That whole Larry Shaeffer thing is a real eye opener about Amherst. Thank you Larry for bringing this to light on your blog.
Ali

Frank said...

Nice job trespassing!

For once, agreed with Ed. While conditions may look bad, lest you possess experience working with the railroad, pictures can be misleading.

They'll do something. NECR is a responsible company. Just be happy you don't live in Deerfield. Go look at Guilford Rail System/Pan Am Railways...

LarryK4 said...

Just getting in touch with my roots.

Before he became a "domestic" for Miss Emily Dickinson my great, great grandfather Tom Kelley worked as a "railroad track walker" looking for exactly these kind of problems.

Anonymous said...

Keep digging Larry! If the NECR was that good they would have done a better job repairing the tracks after the first derailment. Or is that how they trouble shoot the area's that need repair, by waiting for trains to derail then fix that spot. They should have done a closer inspection on the rails in that area.

LarryK4 said...

I walked the tracks on the overpass on Rt 9 near Amherst College just shy of the crossing near the VFW on Main Street and what a difference.

Unlike the stretch shown in my photos (over near South East Street overpass) almost every tie had all its spikes intact and not a single stray part laying on the tracks.

Of course that is a GOOD thing, considering it is the most densely busy area for the tracks running through Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the ARA should have been focusing more on this sort of stuff (instead of Gateway)?

-Just Saying