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THE MEMPHIS BUFF Volume 34, Issue 5


Wyoming Coal in Demand

August 2007

Railroads in Need of New Employees Bristol to Memphis Corridor?

M.J. Scanlon Photo



Memphis Chapter Officers

President - David Chase Vice President - Bruce Smedley National Director - Bill Strong

Secretary - Oliver Doughtie Treasurer - Thomas Doherty Librarian - Mike Pendergrass Publication Editor - M.J. Scanlon

June’s Meeting We had twenty attendees at the June meeting. Bill Strong brought the meeting to order and turned things over to Don Weis, who gave a presentation on his experiences of privately owning railcars and shipping by rail. Don’s family originally owned a fuel distribution business that was based in Brinkley, Arkansas. The nature of the business required the receipt of fuel via railcar and Don learned first hand about receiving and unloading cars. Over time, the family business acquired ten tank cars to aid them in shipping and receiving their products. When the family decided to sell the business, they retained ownership of the railcars and the fleet has grown over the years. Don gave each attendee a packet of information that is common to a private railcar owner. The packet included repair orders, invoices and even an email from CSX where they informed Don that three of their railcars had been destroyed. Don explained various aspects of owning a railcar including how the railroads only charge to ship a loaded car and will return/locate an empty free of charge. He also provided technical drawings on various types of tank cars and explained the differences between the various cars we see on the road today. - Oliver Doughtie

Cover Shot - Coal bound for Georgia is on this train leaving the Antelope Mine in Wyoming. This train will pass through Memphis on its’ way to the Scherer Plant. (M.J. Scanlon Photo)



What’s Up for the August Meeting ? The program for August 13 NRHS meeting will be a video, “The Great Trans American Train Ride.” This is a unique program featuring a cross country trip on three Amtrak trains of a previous decade. Two of these trains are no longer operating.

The Broadway Limited The California Zephyr The Desert Wind So if you missed riding them this may be your last opportunity to visualize crossing the Alleghenies at horseshoe curve or see an Amtrak Station in a gambling casino. In addition to the trains and scenery, there are historical side trips and fascinating travelogues included. Our September meeting 9-10-07 will involve a field trip to meet in conjunction with the West Tennessee Historical Society. The program will be the History of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad as presented by our own Bill Strong. The time of this meeting will be the same as our regular meeting times. Detailed directions for getting there will be forthcoming. - Bill Strong

New Editor Wanted While I have enjoyed my run as editor of the Memphis Buff it is time for me to step down. As has been painfully noticeable lately, I’m having a hard time getting a monthly issue out in a timely fashion. With my current status of working in Wyoming, along with other activities I’m involved in, my time has been spread thin. More than I would have imagined. I also feel that a change for me is due. I appreciate the kind words from you all over the past several years and I have enjoyed creating the Buff each month, but it’s time for me to step aside and pass the baton on to a new editor. This will be my last edition of the Memphis Buff and hopefully someone in the chapter will be willing to step up and take over as editor. - M.J. Scanlon



Industry Struggling to Interest Youths in Working on the Railroad By Darrell Smith For an idea of the labor shortage in today's railroad industry, click into Union Pacific's Web site. The railroad's plea is simple and direct: "We need good people and we need them now." From Arkansas to Oregon, Iowa to Wyoming and in Northern California cities such as Oakland and Roseville, freight railroads are hanging the "Help Wanted" sign to meet the growing demand for rail service and to fill the gap opened as an aging work force rides the rails to retirement. "The railroad career is not for everyone. There's traveling. You're away from home," said Kelly Donley, spokeswoman for the Association of American Railroaders. "But there's no better-paying, secure industry, and it's not a job that's going to be outsourced. The jobs are here in America." The trouble is, when young people think of railroads, they might think of shoveling coal and billowing steam. That sepia-toned image, however, has given way to a mix of computers, electronics and mechanics. Wages currently average slightly more than $67,000 a year, according to the railroad association, which projects 80,000 new rail technicians will be needed over the next five years even though technological advances will winnow the demand for labor. Educational requirements vary widely, from a high-school diploma or its equivalent in entry-level positions to two-year technical degrees or more for diesel mechanics, to engineering or science degrees for operations managers. Union Pacific, the nation's largest railroad, looks for applicants with a journeyman's card, military training or on-the-job experience in most cases but will provide on-the-job training for entry-level positions.

and Pocatello, Idaho; and Roseville, Calif., home to one of the nation's largest train yards and the biggest one on the West Coast. Finding the talent needed to meet the demand of a multibillion-dollar industry, however, has been difficult. "While people are interested in railroads [as a career], we're still searching for qualified employees," said Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis. Railroading provides the type of secure, steady pay that allows a worker to "buy a house, start a family, pay taxes," said Michael Halbern, a professor at Sierra College near Sacramento, Calif, who teaches a new wave of tech-savvy railroaders at the college's Computer Integrated Electronics-Mechatronics Program. While wages average $67,000 a year, compensation rises to more than $90,000 with benefits, according to the railroad association, based in Washington, D.C. Oddly, that was part of the problem, say those in the rail industry. Workers enticed by the good pay and long-term job security grew gray in their jobs. In 2001, employment law changed, allowing workers with 30 or more years of experience to retire at age 60. That triggered a wave of departures that the industry is still recovering from, said railroad officials. When those workers retired, not only manpower disappeared but also years of experience on the tracks and in the locomotive. The retirements were keenly felt because railroads had trimmed their labor forces as freight shipments moved to air carriers and trucks, said Dan Williams, a Sacramento branch manager at the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

The railroad also recruits college graduates with majors in accounting, computer science, marketing, production management and other fields.

Myriad other factors also contributed to boosting the demand for railroad workers: the growth in container shipping; limits on how many hours long-haul truckers could drive; soaring gas prices; the Wyoming coal boom; and the demand for Midwestern corn for ethanol development.

The positions are in places such as Cheyenne, Wyo.,

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Union Pacific found a few good men and women by looking to the military for recruits, Davis said. The railroad has been named top military-friendly employer the past two years by online career guide for its outreach to and hiring of former military personnel. Still, the demanding, physical work, the long hours often miles from home and an outdated image of the industry discourage some prospects. "The challenge has been getting young people to think about railroads as a career opportunity. When they think about railroads, they think about shoveling coal and steam engines," said Donley of the railroad association. Today, however, technology permeates the industry from the locomotive's cab to the way freight is handled and shipped. "[The locomotive] is a rolling computer. ... This is not just 'grab a wrench and turn a nut,' " Halbern said. "The railroads have the same needs as other companies. They are trying to find a place where they can attract employees to keep the infrastructure alive." Copyright Š 2007 The Seattle Times Company

Left - The crew of the UP train MPIPB 23 have tied down in Stuttgart Yard in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Traffic is backed up on the lines and there would no way for them to make Pine Bluff before their time ran out.

M.J. Scanlon Photo

Right - Working the yard is one of many jobs on the railroad. Here Illinois Central engine 6014 is seen moving through Johnston Yard as RJY14. M.J. Scanlon Photo



Summer's Heat Bested by Rail-Delivered Coal Ample Coal Inventories Ensure Air Conditioned Comfort for Americans WASHINGTON, July 26, 2007 — As summer temperatures soar, Americans can relish the fact that the nation's railroads have provided electric utilities with ample coal supplies to generate enough electricity to keep everyone in air conditioned comfort. In fact, the coal supply at electric utilities has reached its highest level in more than a decade — over 156 million tons — according to the Energy Information Administration's monthly flash estimate on coal inventories for May. This represented a 17.6 percent increase from year-ago levels and a 4.4 percent jump from April. "There has been an unprecedented amount of cooperation among railroads, coal companies and electric utilities to ensure that there will be enough coal on hand to withstand even the hottest days of summer," said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR). "That cooperation was especially productive earlier this summer when floods in the Midwest and Southwest created additional transportation challenges," he added. That flooding caused some delivery delays, but those problems are being rapidly eliminated. Idaho Power spokesman Dennis Lopez agreed that coal supplies are strong. "We have adequate coal supplies at all of our plants to see us through this heat wave and beyond," he said in the July 10 issue of Platts Coal Trader newsletter. Left - A BNSF coal train (C-NAMCHS1-35A) heads out of the Powder River Coal basin with a new load of coal for the Scherer Plant in Georgia. This train will exchange to the Norfolk Southern in Memphis. Right - With a rainbow shining in the distance UP 6241 brings up the rear of an empty coal train (CLLBT 19) bound for the Black Thunder Mine. An empty Scherer train is in the foreground waiting to go into the Antelope mine to be loaded. M.J. Scanlon Photos

"Railroads worked overtime last year to ensure that utilities would have enough coal on hand to meet the needs of their customers," Hamberger said. "And those inventories have continued to grow this year." He noted that railroads are planning to spend a record $9.4 billion on capital improvements this year so that they can be prepared to handle even more coal and other products in the future. "Some of that money is going toward additional locomotives, more freight cars and expanded track capacity," Hamberger said. He pointed to programs to add triple and quadruple track in the Powder River Basin as an example of how railroads are investing to handle even more coal in the future. "Railroads are well-prepared for continued growth in the coal market," Hamberger said, adding, "If Congress passes the bi-partisan Freight Rail Infrastructure Capacity Expansion Act (S. 1125 and H.R. 2116), introduced by Senators Conrad and Lott and Representatives Meek and Cantor, it will help ensure that we continue to meet those needs." That legislation would provide a 25 percent tax credit for any business investing in new rail track, intermodal facilities, rail yards, locomotives or other rail infrastructure expansion projects. The legislation has been endorsed by a wide range of rail customers including the National Mining Association, the American Association of Ports Authorities, the National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. © 2007 Association of American Railroaders



Tennessee Transportation Officials to Study Interstate Corridor from Bristol to Memphis By David McGee On the heels of a multi-year Virginia study of Interstate 81, the Tennessee Department of Transportation is embarking on a review of Interstates 81 and 40. The Tennessee study, which is getting under way, will examine the entire 550-mile corridor from Bristol to Memphis. It is scheduled to be completed by May 2008. "This study will aid TDOT in identifying and implementing transportation solutions that provide cost-effective, short-term improvements while also working toward long-term investments in our transportation system," Commissioner Gerald Nicely said in a news release. In Virginia, state transportation officials are still trying to plot the appropriate course of action to expand parts of I-81 to accommodate greater traffic volumes. Traffic on I-81 in Virginia has doubled, and in some cases tripled since 1978, and is expected to double again by 2035, according to that study. TDOT’s final product will include a prioritized listing of highway and railroad projects the state might consider for its transportation improvement program. TDOT expects to conduct a series of public meetings in late summer, during which officials will present an overview of the project, list deficiencies and offer potential solutions,

Right - Yet another coal train due to pass through Memphis leaves the confines of the Powder River Basin. BNSF engine 5812 is the DPU on C-ATMMHS1-31A. The coal came from the Antelope Mine and is bound for the Scherer Plant in Georgia. M.J. Scanlon Photo

according to the news release. Solutions should address concerns about congestion, capacity, operations, maintenance, safety, freight movement, and commuter patterns, according to TDOT documents. The effort is also expected to involve communication with neighboring states Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi. Telephone calls to TDOT’s communications office weren’t immediately returned Tuesday. "The [study] consultants met with the Tri-Cities MPOs [Metropolitan Planning Organizations] this spring to gather information and concerns," said Bristol Tennessee transportation planner Rex Montgomery. "Our concerns are two-fold – safety and capacity," he said. VDOT’s recently completed three-year, Tier 1 study identified current and future problems, and offered options, including road improvements, rail improvements and potentially charging usage tolls. The Federal Highway Administration approved VDOT’s tentative plan to expand and improve parts of the interstate that stretches 325 miles from Bristol to the West Virginia state line. © 2007 Bristol Herald Courier


At the Railroad Interpretive Center in Douglas, Wyoming one can find this CB&Q caboose. This wooden caboose was built by the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad in 1884 for a cost of $1023. It was rebuilt and modernized in 1912 and again in 1958. The caboose was given to the city of Douglas in 1993. (M.J. Scanlon Photo)

Meeting Schedule August 13, 2007 September 10, 2007 October 8 , 2007 Meetings are the 2nd Monday of each month in the White Station Branch Library from 7 - 9 pm. 5094 Poplar Avenue Memphis, TN (in front of Clark Tower)

Contact the Editor M.J. Scanlon 3549 Kenwood Avenue Memphis, TN 38122

THE MEMPHIS BUFF welcomes contributions for publication. Copyrighted materials must contain the source. Original documents and photos are preferred for clarity. Enclose a SASE for the return of your materials. Articles sent via the Internet should be in Microsoft Word format. Photos should be JPEG files @ 72 dpi and at least 800x600 size. Consideration for a cover photo would require a much higher resolution. THE MEMPHIS BUFF is a not-for-profit publication for the Memphis Chapter of the NRHS.

August 2007 Memphis Buff  

Wyoming Coal in Wyoming Coal in Wyoming Coal in Demand Demand Demand Bristol to Memphis Bristol to Memphis Bristol to Memphis Corridor? Corr...

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