Hotline #683

The earliest that this Hotline service will be converted to a 900 number is now Hotline #685 of September 6. We regret any confusion that may be resulting from the numerous postponements of this service change.

Hurricane Bob battered New England on August 19, affecting the operations of several railroads. Several Amtrak corridor trains were diverted to the Inland route via Worcester, causing delays. Trains that did run via Providence experienced delays of up to six and seven hours, because of extensive signal problems on the Shore Line. Cape Cod was hit hard, but Amtrak's Cape Codder does not run that part of the week.

The Long Island Rail Road reported extensive damage on the east end of the system, mostly downed power lines and trees. Service was disrupted for six hours on August 19 on the busy, electrified Ronkonkoma branch as crews removed consumer power lines blocking the tracks. Service on the diesel branches between Ronkonkoma and Greenport and between Southampton and Montauk was still suspended on August 20 because of fallen trees.

One of the 16 or so storm-related deaths was that of a Metro-North conductor, who died when the train she was working on struck a tree that the storm had blown across the right-of-way near Scarsdale, N.Y. Metro-North had some service disruptions but had all trains running within an hour of the storm.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority closed its entire surface rail system for two hours during the height of the storm and reported little damage.

Harley O. Staggers, Sr., a Democrat who represented eastern West Virginia in Congress for 32 years, died on August 20 at Cumberland, Md., at the age of 84. The centerpiece of his career in Congress came in 1980, the year before he retired, with the passage of the landmark Staggers Act, which deregulated freight railroads and completely changed the face of that industry. Staggers was always keenly interested in the rail industry and as a young man even served as a brakeman on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Staggers became chairman of what was then the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee in 1966. In that capacity, Staggers also oversaw authorization bills affecting Amtrak, including leading the House floor debate in support of the original Amtrak bill on October 13, 1970. Staggers is also remembered for the peoplemover project at Morgantown, W.Va., and for the famous "Harley's Hornet," an Amtrak turbotrain operating through his district in the early 1970's. He also was the author of the 1966 law requiring nationwide observance of daylight savings time, which greatly streamlined railroad timekeeping. Staggers' son, Harley, Jr., represents the same Congressional district today.

The Conservation Law Foundation filed suit in federal court on August 21 to block the Boston Central Artery project, saying the project ignores transit as a means to reduce congestion and pollution. CLF had asked NARP to join the suit, but NARP declined because the CLF suit does not provide for a North-South Stations rail link.

The Long Island Rail Road on August 19 placed its first bi-level cars into service, between Port Jefferson and Hunterspoint in Queens. The cars are designed to fit into the East River Tunnels and will begin direct service to Penn Station in Manhattan when locomotives are available.

Virginia Rail Express has hired an advertising agency to come up with a catchier name. The unfortunate result is "The Way." Wisely, the VRE board said they'd give the matter further consideration.

This summer, CSX put up five central Florida Amtrak stations for sale. They are Orlando, Sanford (mainline), Winter Park, Lakeland, and Ocala. Amtrak has rent-free leases in each building that expire in 1996.

A new Amtrak station, built with state funds, was opened at Ticonderoga, N.Y., on August 13, replacing an older shelter dubbed the "fishing shanty." The new, brick station is on State Route 74, closer to the Vermont ferry and Fort Ticonderoga than the shelter was.

A widely publicized high-speed rail project in South Korea, which was to have begun construction this month, has been postponed indefinitely. The line was to have connected Seoul with Pusan.

Washington Metro board members, who represent area local governments, are questioning a "fast-track" plan released by Metro General Manager David Gunn to complete the entire Metrorail system by 2001. They say the local governments may not be able to come up with an increasing share of the cost. The next segment, the Green Line to Anacostia, is still on schedule to open in December.

Amtrak will display its exhibit car and a Horizon coach at Topeka Railroad Days, August 31 and September 1-2. The fair will be held at Forbes Field in Topeka.

Two Third World railways are in trouble because of the BCCI collapse. Zambia National Railways and Rhodesia Railways of Zimbabwe had millions deposited in BCCI and met last week at Victoria Falls to discuss selling off assets, including selling the famous Victoria Falls railway bridge that connects the two countries.