Todd Gould fields a question about VANs and AS2


Question to Todd

Why we should opt for VAN rather than AS2 connection though VAN charges per KB files to transfer? What are the services provided by a VAN provided other than just transferring files?
Todd Responded:
Todd Gould It really depends on what competencies you have in house and what “value added” services you require. Since your question only seems to include the actual transport of the data, then I will assume you are looking at plain VAN Mailboxing vs. AS2. The VAN as a message broker: With a VAN you set up a single communications channel to the VAN for uploading and downloading your data. All the routing both to other trading partners on the same VAN and to others over Interconnects are handled for you by the VAN. Additionally, you would likely need a VAN that can also hand AS2 on your behalf since these days there are a number of major trading partners that only have AS2 connectivity. Every communication channel with your trading partners is handled by someone else, just like your phone service and your Internet service. You pay for your connection and have the expectation that your provider, the VAN will respond to your needs and issues since you are paying them. In practice, the VANs never cooperated very well with each other. There is no shared routing table, no concept of DNS and no automation or standard for migrations. It mostly works, but not nearly as well as it could. This lack of cooperation and standardization contributes to the high cost of VAN services. A modernized VAN architecture could greatly reduce the costs of delivering the services while maintaining profit margins. AS2 requires more in-sourcing: With AS2 you become the message broker and the communications expert. You have to manage every one of your trading partner communications channels, make certificate changes whenever they dictate and deal with any outages, incompatibilities, etc. You manage your own routing tables in order to tell the AS2 system where to send each interchange. Depending on the AS2 software license you may have to keep paying for more trading partner licenses as you expand in addition to annual support agreements. There are implementation issues, test configurations, production configurations and various data gymnastics that must be performed in order to get your data to route to the right AS2 configuration. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, someone creates something new and very special. There are also firewall issues. For whatever reason, the writers of the AS2 RFC did not see a need to specify a commonly used port, so it seems that ever implementation of AS2 is set up on a different port. Depending on your firewall administrator, you may be in for a number of “discussions.” There is no central AS2 directory service, so you will need to manual enter and configure every single one of your trading partner profiles and manually update them as they change. Changes tend to be hard cutovers, so be prepared to show up at any hour on any day of the week to change your system exactly the same time your trading partner changes theirs. For each organization there is this magic number of AS2 trading partners where the system becomes a burden. For some it may be 10, for others it may be 50, 100 and certainly by 500 AS2 trading partners, this has become a full time support position that must be monitored 24x7x365. While I think that AS2 is actually a pretty nifty communications protocol with encryption, digital signatures, and delivery notices (MDNs), I think the current options for software are only adequate. A global registry for AS2 configuration information, along with an API, that software packages could use to automatically update trading partner configurations would go a long way to making AS2 a vastly superior choice for B2B communications than it is today. With all this said, I would think that any company that is handling its own EDI mapping and translation would tend to run its largest EDI trading partners over AS2 and then outsource to a VAN to handle the smaller trading partners and those not AS2-enabled, getting the best of both worlds…until something better comes along.

What is EDI? – A Definition and History



Your first thought might be: “I know already or I wouldn’t be reading this publication”. Yes, we will give you the “schoolbook” definition. We will even tell you a brief history of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), but our real purpose is to give you the Year 2013 definition of EDI; and back it up with an expert opinion.Developed in the United States in the mid-1960s, the idea of what became known as EDI today originated with a group of railroad companies.

The standardization of documents proved to be necessary. They formed an organization known as the Transportation Data Coordinating Committee (TDCC) . Renamed the Electronic Data Interchange Association (EDIA) , they received a charter from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and became the ANSI X12 Committee.

Hockey History


Hockey History – A Small Slice From My Life Experiences

I followed ice hockey throughout the 1950’s and thought I would share a little about this older era.

National Hockey League

The history of the National Hockey League begins with the end of its predecessor league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), in 1917. The NHL’s first quarter-century saw the league compete against two rival major leagues—the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League—for players and the Stanley Cup. The NHL first expanded into the United States in 1924 with the founding of the Boston Bruins, and by 1926 consisted of ten teams in Ontario, Quebec, the Great Lakes region, and the Northeastern United States. At the same time, the NHL emerged as the only major league and the sole competitor for the Stanley Cup; in 1947, the NHL completed a deal with the Stanley Cup trustees to gain full control of the Cup.

The Great Depression and World War II reduced the league to six teams, later known as the “Original Six”, by 1942.
Boston Bruins (joined league in 1924)
Chicago Black Hawks (joined league in 1926)
Detroit Red Wings (joined league in 1926)
Montreal Canadiens (founded in 1909; joined league in 1917)
New York Rangers (joined league in 1926)
Toronto Maple Leafs (joined league in 1917)

The NHL consisted of ten teams during the 1920s, but the league experienced a period of retrenchment during the Great Depression, losing the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Maroons in succession to financial pressures. The New York Americans – one of the league’s original expansion franchises, along with the Bruins and Maroons – lasted longer, but World War II provided its own economic strains and also severely depleted the league’s Canadian player base, since Canada entered the war in September 1939 and many players left for military service. The Americans suspended operations in the fall of 1942, leaving the NHL with just six teams. Despite various efforts to initiate expansion after the war, including attempted restarts of the Maroons and Americans franchises, the league’s membership would remain at six teams for the next twenty-five seasons.

The Canadiens

Founded in 1909, the Canadiens are the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey team and the only existing NHL club to predate the founding of the NHL, as well as one of the oldest North American sports franchises The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup more times than any other franchise. They have won 24 championships, 22 of them since 1927, when NHL teams became the only ones to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Since 1996, the Canadiens have played their home games at the Bell Centre, which was named the Molson Centre until 2003. Former homes of the team include Jubilee Rink, Montreal Westmount Arena, Mount Royal Arena and the Montreal Forum. The Forum was considered a veritable shrine to hockey fans everywhere, and housed the team for seven decades and all but their first two Stanley Cup championships.

Montreal Maroons

1924/25: The NHL entered its eighth season with two goals, place a team in a major US market and place another team in Canada’s Largest City Montreal for the Anglo fans left behind when the Wanderers were forced to fold, after a fire destroyed their arena just five games into the first NHL season. The team in Montreal would be named the Maroons, and they would play their first game against their American expansion brothers on December 1st, losing the first ever NHL game played in the USA to the Boston Bruins 2-1. The Maroons, who had to pay $10,000 of their $ 15,000 expansion fee to the Montreal Canadiens for territorial rights, would have an arena of their own in Montreal, as they became the first tenant of the brand new Montreal Forum that had been built specially for the Maroons.

In the 1925/1926 Stanley Cup Finals the Maroons would face the Victoria Cougars from the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) who had beaten the Montreal Canadiens a year earlier for the Cup. The Maroons would easily knock off the Cougars winning in four games as Nels Stewart scored all 10 Maroons goals and Clint Benedict recorded three shutouts, winning the Stanley Cup back for the NHL. It would mark the last time the NHL Champion faced another league for the rights to the Stanley Cup as the WCHL folded following the season.

The Maroons were Stanley Cup Champions un 1926 and 1935

1938-: In the years after Maroons folded the Canadiens, where left to represent Montreal, which was upended by Toronto as the largest city in Canada during the 1970’s. Through these years Anglo hockey fans in Montreal either found themselves weaning onto the Habs or found themselves becoming Toronto Maple Leaf fans. Meanwhile the Montreal Forum, which was built specifically for the Maroons, would become the most famous venue in hockey as the Canadiens set a record with 24 Stanley Cup Championships with hockey heroes that will become legends throughout Canada, as the Maroons would be forgotten. A cruel twist to a once great rivalry that once saw the most fights between any two clubs. As many fights even erupted in the crowds, as well as the reporters covering each team would often be mean-spirited in their articles when mentioning their rivals inside the city of Montreal.

New York Americans

The New York Americans (colloquially known as the Amerks) were a professional ice hockey team based in New York, New York from 1925 to 1942. They were the third expansion team in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the second to play in the United States. The team never won the Stanley Cup, but reached the semifinals twice. While it was the first team in New York, it was eclipsed by the second, the New York Rangers, which arrived in 1926 under the ownership of the Amerks’ landlord, Tex Ricard’s Madison Square Garden. The team operated as the Brooklyn Americans during the 1941–42 season before suspending operations in 1942 due to the twin strains of World War II and longstanding financial difficulties. The demise of the club marked the beginning of the NHL’s Original Six era from 1942 to 1967, though the Amerks’ franchise was not formally canceled until 1946. The New York Metropolitan Area would not have a second NHL team again until the establishment of the New York Islanders in nearby Uniondale, New York, on Long Island, in the 1972–73 season. The team’s overall regular season record was 255-402-127.

The Clinton Comets

Yes, I followed minor league hockey too.

Clinton, New York has had ice hockey since 1918 when Coach Ira Albert Prettyman arrived at Hamilton College and introduced the sport. Clinton has only a couple of thousand residents, but was once known as “Hockey Town, USA”.

Founded in 1927–28 as the Clinton Hockey Club, the team was originally started by Ed Stanley who acted as manager to build a team from local high school students and helped to provide finances for the team to buy equipment and take road trips. He quickly was able to build a very successful team which in the 1933-1934 season played in the National Amateur Championship at Madison Square Garden against the Hershey Bears.

Stanley, along with Coach Prettyman who brought college hockey to nearby Hamilton College went on to be the only two people from the same town or city on the 1940 Olympic hockey committee. The 1940 Winter Olympics were scheduled for Sapporo, Japan but were canceled because of the start of World War II, as well as the hopes of Comets players Wilfred Goering and Art Scoones who were trying out for the Olympic team.

The name Comets was picked in a contest run by the Clinton Civic Group in February 1949 when the first Clinton Arena was dedicated. This team played in the New York-Ontario League from 1951 to 1954 and then in the Eastern Hockey League between 1954 and 1973. During that time the venerable and beloved Comets won five League championships and received the Walker Cup in 1958, 1964, 1968, 1969, and 1970.

Saturday nights were “Hockey Night in Clinton” during those thrilling years when the Comets dominated the EHL. Over 2500 fans jammed the arena filling all seats and sometimes standing 2-3 deep around the catwalk. Cheering for the Comets and jeering for the opponents became normal. The rink was rocking and cars were parked on village streets such as Utica and Mulberry. Fights often broke out and sometimes chairs landed on the ice. This was exciting hockey in which the fans were a big part of the game. One referee and two linesmen tried to keep control.

From 1954 until 1973, the Comets participated in the Eastern Hockey League, dominating for ten of their nineteen seasons. Most notably, under head coach Pat Kelly, the Comets posted a 315–208–64 (wins-losses-ties) record over eight seasons. During that period, in the 1967–68 season, the Comets produced an awe-inspiring 57–5–10 record. The Comets won the EHL playoffs in 1958-59, 1963–64, 1967–68, 1968–69 and 1969-70.

Eastern Hockey League Teams
Baltimore Clippers (1954-55 to 1955-56)
Charlotte Checkers (1956-57 to 1972-73)
Clinton Comets (1954-55 to 1972-73)
Greensboro Generals (1959-60 to 1972-73)
Jersey Larks (1960-61)
Johnstown Jets (1955-56 to 1972-73)
Long Island Ducks (1961-62 to 1972-73)
New Haven Blades (1954-55 to 1971-72)
New York Rovers (1959-60 to 1960-61; 1964-65)
Philadelphia Ramblers (1955-56 to 1963-64)
Washington Lions (1954-55 to 1956-57)
Washington Presidents (1957-58 to 1959-60)
Worcester Warriors (1954-55)
Note: some of these teams “morphed” into NHL teams

The Comets played in the New York Ontario Hockey League 1952-1953
Clinton Comets 26- 6-0-62
Brockville Magedomas 22-15-1-45
Cornwall Falcons 19-16-2-40
Gananoque Gans 17-18-2-36
Inkerman Rockets 4-33-1- 9

See more about my sports interests

All about trains run for the President of the United States (POTUS)


(Photo above is President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934.

FDR in Washington in 1934 from National Archives

Our feature article is all about trains run for the President of the United States .

We have a lot of POTUS reference material and a great section on Robert F. Kennedy .
Obama traces Lincoln’s path to his Inauguration

January 17, 2009 President Elect Obama takes an Amtrak charter train from Philadelphia to Washington. He stops in Delaware to pick up Joe Biden, the Vice President Elect.

His train was led by P42s 44 and 120. How symbolic the lead is 44! I would not put it past someone in Amtrak to track down that unit and have it for the train 44 is for the 44Th President.. (we knew that) 120 is January 20…. Inauguration date Wow…If that is the case, then MAJOR kudos to the folks responsible. Very cool. Wonder if the media will pick up on it…

Obama rode in a private car, Georgia 300, which was hooked on the end of several Amfleet cars holding guests and media.

The pilot train had a track inspection and the Corridor Clipper, which is used to inspect the catenary.

Trailing train has engines 71 and 77 with Amtrak business car Beech Grove.


Here’s Harry Truman at the Army Navy football game. A friend sent me picture, but omitted details. By the overhead wires it looks like Philadelphia.
We cover POTUS on the New Haven Railroad.

Some good pictures we have are Harry Truman at the Army Navy football game and POTUS on RAILROAD Magazine .

See our articles on Pat Nixon in Chicago , POTUS Today , Roosevelt Funeral Train , POTUS in Terre Haute and the longest POTUS . Read about a sad Train Order and FDR Routes .

Our special section on Abraham Lincoln .

Why do Presidents of the United States always make land journeys of any distance by rail? (question asked in 1942)

Since the days of Zachary Taylor, every President of the United States has made all land journeys of any considerable distance by rail. This is because the railway passenger train is by far the safest and most reliable mode of travel. Moreover, it affords an opportunity to rest and sleep in comfort and without unnecessary fatigue. With its spaciousness and cleanliness, with its dining car, sleeping compartments, and with facilities for holding conferences, dictating speeches, entertaining guests and so on, the railway passenger train provides comforts and conveniences which no other mode of transportation offers.

A Sad Train Order (New York Central)


Saratoga & North Creek logs first freight movement on New York line in a quarter-century

Progressive Railroading” magazine had a story about the restart of freight service on the Saratoga & North Creek.


Iowa Pacific Holdings L.L.C. (IPH) announced its Saratoga & North Creek Railway (SNC) subsidiary yesterday moved the first outbound freight shipment in 25 years from North Creek, N.Y., on a long-discontinued rail line.SNC operates 56.5 miles of track between North Creek and a connection with Canadian Pacific in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The line was built in the mid-1800s as the Adirondack Railroad to open up the Adirondack Mountain region to both inbound and outbound passenger- and freight-rail service, but passenger service was discontinued in 1956.

The 29-mile Sanford Lake Branch, running from North Creek to Tahawus, was purchased by IPH last year. The last freight train operated on the upper portion of the line in November 1989, and in 2003, freight service for an International Paper plant in Corinth was discontinued, IPH officials said in a press release.

The north half of the line was purchased by Warren County in 1997, the line from Corinth to Saratoga Springs was bought by the town of Corinth in 2006. IPH acquired operating rights to the line in 2011 and has spent about $1.5 million on track, station and ancillary facility upgrades, including rail replacement, siding rehabilitations, and new ties and ballast.

Industrial minerals shipper Barton International is SNC’s first freight customer, IPH officials said. Other potential commodities for the short line include iron ore, hardwood forest products, aggregates, inbound coal and general merchandise, they said.

SNC also operates scheduled passenger-rail service over the line to North Creek, serving seven intermediate stations.


Supply Chain Control Towers


A new term is appearing in the supply chain arena: “Supply Chain Control Tower”. Just as an airport control tower coordinates airplanes landing and taking off, a Supply Chain Control Tower coordinates inbound and outbound distribution flows. Sure sounds more professional than a “dashboard”.
It is all about “knowledge”. Air controllers get information on weather, speed, direction, and altitude of aircraft and use that knowledge to keep their air space safe. Companies must know what is happening with their supply chains so they can prevent disasters too. They need to be able to do “what-if” analysis and work their way around events that will cause disruption and risks to the supply chain.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Snow Removal Trains


How does New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority clear its train tracks? Twelve-year olds with shovels just aren’t as efficient as the MTA’s specialized snow removal locomotives:

Over the summer, the railroad’s three jet-powered snow blowers were completely rebuilt.  Each received a new Cummins diesel engine (for traveling over the rail) and a new, high-efficiency, Rolls Royce Viper aircraft turbine engine for melting snow.   The engines produce exhaust that’s 600 degrees Fahrenheit, which virtually vaporizes snow.

“If the jets do the job right, all you see is steam coming off the steel,” said Peter Hall, Foreman of the Maintenance of Way Equipment Shop in North White Plains.  “They produce 2,500 pounds of thrust, which makes them very good at getting under heavy, wet slush, ice and crusty snow.”

The Rolls Royce turbines use half the fuel of the engines they replace, 1950s-era General Electric/Westinghouse J57 turbines that were used in B-52 bombers.  The Vipers burn about 100 gallons of kerosene per hour at 70% capacity – the optimal level for fuel efficiency.

“With fuel tanks that hold 1,800 gallons, these new jet blowers can run continuously without having to stop to refuel in the middle of a storm,” Hall said.

About Rail New York


Rail New York (RNY) is a web-based public advocacy group with one simple goal:To improve the Quality of Life in New York City and Long Island by promoting increased freight rail transportationOur focus is primarily on the counties of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn (Kings), Nassau and Suffolk counties, part of an area known as the “East-of-Hudson” region.

This long-overdue logistics shift will have the ultimate effect of significantly reducing traffic congestion, air pollution, public health issues, and infrastructure decay in the region — all the while increasing public health, improving traffic flow, reducing stress, improving our economy, and bestowing upon us a multitude of other benefits to improve New York’s Quality of Life.

In a tragic irony, the intense population density, infrastructure limitations, and unique geography of New York City and Long Island make our region more desperate for rail-based freight logistics than any other part of the country, yet we are severely inhibited from being fully-integrated with the national freight rail network. New York City and Long Island receive ~1% of its freight by rail, compared with the ~15% national average. Our goal is to change the numbers in New York’s favor and shift freight logistics to a more rail-based strategy. We strive to bring that paltry 1% figure up to match the national average.

A tall order? Perhaps. But not so daunting when the right people, armed with the right information, make the right decisions. We are here to serve that information, highlight the problems, offer solutions, and report on progress.

We work aggressively to promote freight rail transportation (freight trains) in New York City proper as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties and the entire East-of-Hudson region. We provide the statistics and case studies establishing the solid and undeniable fact that increasing our reliance on freight rail logistics is the answer to many of the region’s transportation, infrastructure and public health problems, among many other issues. Rail New York strives to grow the freight rail sector in New York City and geographic Long Island by furnishing unbiased facts to the public, politicians, municipal agencies, business leaders, institutions, and other policy-makers to build support for freight rail transportation so as to make it a more integral part of the East-of Hudson’s freight logistics strategy. Everyone will benefit.

What’s more, we are constantly expanding our membership roster of regional New Yorkers and vested parties from all throughout the world to build even greater support for freight rail solutions in the East-of-Hudson region. We are leveraging the ever-growing size of our membership base to encourage public policy in favor of freight rail logistics, which has been ignored for way too long. RNY gives everyone a common organization through which we can all make our voices heard:

New York and Long Island absolutely require freight rail to survive today and to be sustainable in the future!

One boxcar can carry the load of 3 to 4 semi tractor-trailers, and a single freight train can carry one ton of freight over 400 miles on one gallon of fuel. Best of all, freight trains won’t clog the highways and will not adversely impact the East-of-Hudson region’s Quality of Life. Freight trains ARE the answer to our worsening problems.

EDI: A Lost Art, But Learnable


EDI a lost art, high turnover, nobody still understands it and needs training, requirements change. companies don’t invest in training anymore. Training is even more important now.

Skills of an EDI specialist are more in analysis of business documents and understanding of the business issues. This is far more important than knowledge of a particular piece of software. An EDI specialist can quickly learn a new tool as required. I am talking more about training for an in-place specialist in order to improve their skills. I am thinking of such topics as EDI best practices, implementing non-core EDI transactions, using POS 852 Data to improve planning, automating PO Change in the workflow process.

EDI best practices improve performance, increase productivity, cash flow, and maximize profits. They identify and drive out errors, streamline, and correct behavior to improve the flow of merchandise.

Non-core EDI transactions are those not related directly to the line of business of the company. For instance, ordering parts for manufacturing would be a core EDI transaction, while paying a telephone bill would be a non-core EDI transaction. But remember, paying that phone bill electronically still produces a savings that goes to the bottom line.

Both using POS 852 Data to improve planning and automating PO Change in the workflow process have tremendous potential for cost savings, but they might be something an EDI specialist has never dealt with before WITHOUT PROPER TRAINING.

EDI is a much bigger discipline than simply knowing a software suite. The EDI Specialist can learn to use software rather quickly, but can an EDI specialist learn to identify what EDI REF-01 qualifier code would best fit the company and industry standard for a shipping unit of widgets (Box, case, carton, each, pallet, etc.)? Would the EDI specialist be able to pick the best document format for cross industry supply chain documents (i.e a grocery store purchasing truckloads of copy paper from a pulp and paper mill)?

Only experience will give a person skill of understanding the business documents and issue relating to them within a given industry. Then, for example, automotive industry has unique EDI challenges which are completely different than, let’s say, the apparel and footwear industry.

In the infancy of EDI, there were no qualified EDI specialists. They were “home grown” from legacy systems programmers or clerks from procurement, marketing, etc. Companies, vendors and associations organized training courses.

Read more:

Connecticut is just getting over the BIG Snowstorm

ImageMTA Metro-North Railroad To Operate Limited Service From New Haven to New York
Hudson and Harlem Lines Continue to Operate on Monday

NORWALK — On Monday morning, Feb. 11, regular weekday train schedules will remain in effect on Metro-North Railroad’s entire Hudson and Harlem lines, as well as on the New Haven Line between Stamford and Grand Central Terminal.

And for the first time since the blizzard of 2013 hit, trains will operate between New Haven and Stamford at about half of the normal weekday rush hour service level. Train service also will resume on the Danbury and New Canaan branches, but not the Waterbury branch.

On the Danbury Branch, four of the five regular trains will operate. The 6:18 a.m. departure from Danbury will not operate.