SENSORS (What do they have to do with Vending Machines?)


Recently, Mike Martz introduced us to the Internet of Things (IoT). This is what happens when you combine cloud technology, wireless networks, standardized communications protocols, RFID, worldwide IP networks, Big Data, miniaturized sensors, and cheap storage and computing power. Let’s drill down on SENSORS!
The concept of IoT originated in the Auto-ID Lab at MIT in 1999 and was based on RFID, but has been expanded since to include sensor devices that enable machine to machine communication and autonomous event-driven decision making. Sensors are appearing in traffic signals, factories, distributors, homes and even the weather. A while back I reported on XML in Your Weather. While I was primarily focusing on the METAR coding scheme to send weather data around the World, the “Weatherman” told me a lot about Big Data and things like “smart” rain gauges.

Not like they sprung these sensors on us overnight. They have been hinting” for a while. Even the movies picked up on them. The 2002 movie ‘Minority Report‘ shows a person receiving sensor-based individualized advertising messaging as he walked through a store. Director Steven Spielberg consulted numerous scientists in an attempt to present a more plausible future world than that seen in other science fiction films, and some of the technology designs in the film have become true.


Newington Junction Railroad Station


We have several collections of railroad stations, the largest is Connecticut. One that was missing was Newington Junction.

Our friends at Tyler City Station, The most authoritative source for information on Connecticut railroad stations, donated pictures and information on Newington Junction. We would like to thank them very much.

Newington Junction is a section of the town of Newington, Connecticut. It is centered at the intersection of Willard Avenue (Route 173) and West Hill Road in the northwestern part of the town, in the area generally just south of the Hartford city line. The name of the area refers to the railroad junction where the railroad line from New Haven meets with the railroad line from Bristol and Waterbury. The depot on the left was built in 1891 by the New York & New England RR. The passenger station on the right and the freight depot behind it were constructed by the NYNH&H in 1890.

East-West:Hartford, Providence & Fishkill, New Haven Highland Division, Pan Am
North-South: Hartford & New Haven, New Haven, Amtrak (Springfield Line)

Utica Comets Schedule for the Season Looks Great


Utica Comets have announced their 2013-14 regular season schedule.  The inaugural season of Utica Comets hockey will begin on Oct. 11, when the Comets visit the Rochester Americans at 7:05 p.m.

Utica will have a fan-friendly home schedule, that kicks off on Oct. 23 against the Albany Devils, which consists of 29 of their 38 home games being played on either a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The weekend home schedule will be highlighted by 16 Friday night home games and eight Saturday night home games.

Comets fans will have an opportunity to see 18 different opponents this season, the most diverse schedule in the AHL. Affiliates of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (Rockford) as well as the Buffalo Sabres (Rochester), Pittsburgh Penguins (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and Philadelphia Flyers (Adirondack) will all make appearances at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Utica will compete in the North Division of the Western Conference along with Hamilton (Montreal), Lake Erie (Colorado), Toronto (Toronto) and Rochester (Buffalo). They will play 28 games within the North Division and 54 total games within the Western Conference. The Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) will be Utica’s most common opponent as the Comets will face them 12 times.

Don’t forget, FM 94.9 K-ROCK will broadcast all 76 regular season games, as well as all post-season games. Brendan Burke has been named the play-by-play broadcaster, and head of public relations, for the team’s inaugural season in the American Hockey League.

Supply Chain Control Tower Functions

ImageOur Supply Chain Control Tower is up and running. Yes, the idea makes a lot of sense, but what are the benefits? How do we make full use of our resources? What else do we need to add to it?

If you take a look at an airport control tower, it usually is a boring place. Yes, they work around the clock but all you see is a super smooth operation. Operators viewing screens and talking calmly into headsets. When it is not “boring”, they usually throw visitors out. Our goal with our SCM Control Tower is to make it a “boring” place.

Airport towers handle incidents on the ground like failed landing gear. They handle incidents in the air like a “near miss”. They even reach out to other airports: anybody ever sat in an airport waiting for your destination airport to plow its snow, or whatever?

Read more:


Troy Union Railroad


Picture of Green Island Bridge above is from an old postcard.

First of all, see a great movie about the last days of the Troy Union Railroad.


The first railroad in New York State, and one of the first anywhere, was the Mohawk & Hudson, connecting Albany and Schenectady. The Rensselaer & Saratoga Rail Road followed in 1832, only a year late. Within twenty years, three more railroads came into Troy:
Troy & Greenbush;
(2) Troy & Boston; and
(3)Troy & Schenectady.
The resulting congestion led to the formation of the Troy Union Railroad in 1851, owned jointly by the four roads. It opened in 1854. The tracks were moved from River Street to Sixth Avenue and a new station built. One of the lines was eventually bought by the D&H RR (Rensselaer & Saratoga RR), two were merged into the New York Central RR (Troy & Schenectady RR and the Troy & Greenbush RR), and the fourth became part of the Boston & Maine RR (Troy & Boston RR).

Although the tracks in Troy were moved inland to avoid congestion, the growth of the city overwhelmed it still. Row houses, stores, and factories crowded in on all available land near the track. There wasn’t room for the conventional two-storied interlocking towers needed to control the switches at each end of the terminal, so both towers had to straddle the tracks. Switches were thrown by the tower operators through a series of rods and cranks.

In other major cities, early 1900’s grade crossing elimination programs rebuilt the right-of-way above or below the streets. Similar plans were drawn up for Troy, but never were built. Numerous streets required a gate guard, to flag the crossing or drop the gates. The track ran part of the way in the pavement of Sixth Avenue, and steam road locomotives inched their way past parked cars. This looked like industrial trackage but was a passenger main.

Troy’s first depot (before the Troy Union Railroad) was the “Troy House” on River Street. The second one burned (1862) when Troy had what is known as the “Great Fire”. The third one was built shortly afterwards, and lasted until 1900, when Troy finally got a “modern” one. The depot was designed by Reed & Stem, who eventually worked on Grand Central Terminal. The Troy station pioneered individual train platform sheds reached by an underground passageway instead of one huge shed.

The 1900 station was a colonial revival design with Beaux Arts columns and decorated by Grecian castings.”

The station was 400 feet, and the passenger tracks weren’t much longer. Most trains blocked grade crossings at each end of the station. In 1910, there were 130 passenger trains a day. Most of these, except the Albany- Troy beltline, required an engine change.

The station was torn down in 1958, with only a single track left in place because of Rutland trackage rights for their milk train to Chatham, NY. This track came out in 1964, after abandonment of the Rutland. The tunnel for the tracks was between Congress and Ferry Streets.

This area was known in history as the first “red-light district”. Off-duty railroaders visited houses of “working girls”. The railroaders hung their lanterns outside so the crew- callers could find them.

The D&H Troy Branch went to Green Island (from Waterford Jct), and the Green Island Branch went to Troy (from Watervliet Jct).

The Troy Branch was the southern end of the original Rensselaer and Saratoga RR, later absorbed by the D&H. The Green Island Branch was a D&H connection to the former Albany and Vermont RR, which formed the later D&H Saratoga Division Main Line.

The B&M connected with the D&H (and New York Central) at Troy via the Troy Union RR, which was owned by all three (D&H, B&M and NYC). The TURR was formed around a wye, with the passenger station at the south leg. NYC came onto the TURR at Madison St, and from Schenectady via a short stretch of trackage rights on the D&H, which came onto the west leg of the TURR at River St. The B&M came via the north leg at Hoosick Street.

The Rutland originally operated a joint passenger service with the B&M, with Rutland trains and crews becoming B&M trains at the Vermont State Line (White Creek) and running to a NYC connection at Troy. In 1954, after the Rutland passenger service ended, the Rutland gained freight trackage rights on the B&M to Troy and NYC/B&A to Chatham, running three round trips per week out of Rutland.


The only reason for retaining the Troy passenger station at the bitter end was the remnant of B&M service from Boston with one or two Budd RDC’s. The NYC and D&H had the alternative of using Albany as their passenger interchange, and actually it switched back and forth between Albany and Troy for individual trains over the years. The B&M had nothing but Troy.

The D&H preferred Troy over Albany, because the distance from Colonie Shops (the Capital District locomotive service point and crew HQ) was shorter to Troy, and then they didn’t have to run the North Albany Yard Engine to Albany to handle the occasional passenger switching. The Troy Station Switcher (NYCRR crew) was in the station anyway. I don’t think the individual railroads paid for it per move, just a on a fixed percentage.

NYC preferred Albany, because it avoided running light engines the longer distance between Troy and Rensselaer, their locomotive service point, if they didn’t come back with a train.

The D&H paid NYC to use the upper level at Albany on a pro-rata basis, but, all three railroads that owned the Troy Union RR paid a fixed percent of the operating expenses. NYC paid 50%, D&H and B&M 25% each, because NYC took over the ownership of two predecssor RR’s – the Troy and Greenbush and the Troy and Schenectady. The Rutland had no ownership – they operated as B&M trains between White Creek and Troy.

The passenger station was demolished as soon as the last B&M train left town, mostly to avoid the high property taxes levied on railroad property in New York State. The Troy Union RR employees once said, only half in jest, that they knew the end was near when they put a new roof on the station. That was usually the kiss of death for any railroad building.

A serious problem that always plagued Troy was the number of highway grade crossings in the city. Every switching move blocked Fulton Street or Broadway, and the TURR needed about ten crossing watchmen per trick, or a total of more than 40 for the 24/7 passenger operation.

As for the demolition of Troy Union Station, the last passenger service left town in January of 1958 and it was demolished by the end of the summer that same year. So, no, there was never a post-classic- era shack.

Probably the reason Troy lost its direct passenger service relativley early is because it wasn’t far from more-than-adequate remaining service in Albany (7 miles, and with good local transit connections) . The cost saving from shutting down TUS was probably enormous.

Around 1959 D&H and NYC had brought running B&M to Albany, but they couldn’t make an agreement with the operating brotherhoods to allow B&M crews to run to Albany. It wouldn’t work out if a D&H crew had to take the train over that distance. The B&M wasn’t about to put any more money into maintaining that service west of Fitchburg, and this was another good reason for them to dump it.

Either way, the B&M would have had to either run via TURR to the NYC at Madison Street or to the D&H via the Green Island Bridge, and they would have still needed most of the TURR with all of its crossings, and the Green Island Bridge. A route via Mechanicville would not have worked, either. All three railroads wanted to be shed of the entire TURR, not only the station, and the best way to get regulatory approval was to let the expenses pile up and then dump the whole thing. The only fly in the ointment was the Rutland operation, and when that went away in 1961 the fate of the TURR was sealed.

What Will the Panama Canal Do For Florida East Coast Railway?


The 48 mile-long international waterway known as the Panama Canal allows ships to pass between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, saving about 8,000 miles from a journey around the southern tip of South America. A project is underway to build new locks as well as wider and deeper channels that is expected to double the canal’s capacity. This will allow megaships to move through the Canal.

Though traffic continues to increase through the canal, many oil supertankers, huge container ships and aircraft carriers can not fit through the canal. There’s even a class of ships known as “Panamax,” those built to the maximum capacity of the Panama canal and its locks. the Panama Canal expansion project will allow ships double the size of current Panamax (“Post-Panamax”) to pass through the canal, dramatically increasing the amount of goods that can pass through the canal.

The expansion project is a little off target and will not be completed until April 2015. What does this expansion mean? The Panama Canal will then accommodate post-Panamax vessels that carry 12,600 containers, compared to today’s ships carrying 4,500 containers.

Shipping containers through the Canal on these larger ships could reduce costs by as much as $75 to $100 per container per voyage, which adds up quickly! When such ships are able to pass through the Panama Canal, business will consequently pick up along both the U.S. Eastern and Gulf coast ports because the ships can take an “all-water” route from Asia to the U.S. East or Gulf coast—bypassing West coast ports and the roads and railways now used to transport goods across the U.S. However, these ships require depths of up to 50 feet of water to navigate. As a result, port authorities along the U.S. Eastern seaboard and Gulf coast are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to dredge the bottoms of their bays and river bottoms to deepen harbors to accommodate the larger ships.

Progressive Railroading has been covering the East Coast ports plus the connecting railroads. As the $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion nears its 2015 completion to allow supersize, Post-Panamax cargo ships to pass through on their way to markets farther north, eastern U.S. ports and a number of railroads are gearing up for an anticipated increase in international intermodal traffic in the coming years. East and Gulf Coast port authorities are developing and deepening their harbors in preparation for the influx of giant ships, and eastern railroads are building or expanding on-dock rail facilities, building intermodal centers or advancing other plans to accommodate an expected increase in freight traffic.

Among railroads anticipating a bump in intermodal traffic after the bigger canal opens is Florida East Coast Railway L.L.C. (FEC), the only rail provider to south Florida’s ports. Based in Jacksonville, Fla., the 351-mile regional is working with PortMiami and Port Everglades to build on-dock rail facilities as part of their expansion programs, which FEC execs view as a big part of the railroad’s strategy to grow intermodal traffic. “By summer 2014, we’ll have the on-dock rail facility fully operational, which means that from PortMiami we can hit 70 percent of the American population in a matter of days,” says PortMiami Director Bill Johnson. “It will allow us to double stack containers directly to Jacksonville in under nine hours, and connect to Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) and CSX directly to the heartland of America.”

FEC is partnering with both Port Miami and Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) to build on-dock rail facilities to provide faster and more cost-effective service to intermodal customers. In addition, the Port of Miami is engaged in the FEC Rail Reconnection Project. The Project has four phases: (1) reconstruction of the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) Port Lead, (2) rehabilitation of the bascule bridge that connects Port Miami and FEC, (3) the construction of an on-port rail facility, and (4) modifications to FEC’s Rail Yard to accommodate the increase in intermodal traffic. The rail reconnection project is actually part of a larger infrastructure investment program taking place at Port Miami. The other two projects are the Miami Access Tunnel and the 50-foot dredge.

Goliath is Lashing Out At David


Goliath knows his days are numbered. He is a couple of generations away from David. He looks tough, but he is not. But he keeps trying:

From: Robert Heidish | GXS [mailto:GXS.INTERCONNECT@GXS.COM]
Sent: Thursday, August 08, 2013 3:46 PM
To: EDI Systems
Subject: Service Announcement: New Loren Data Setups will be suspended November 1, 2013

9711 Washingtonian Blvd.
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

800-503-9190 t
301-340-4000 t
301-340-5299 f

August 8, 2013

Service Announcement: New Loren Data Setups will be suspended November 1, 2013

GXS will no longer process new trading partner requests on the Loren Data network VAN Interconnect starting on November 1, 2013. This moratorium on new connections is being implemented to ensure that all clients impacted by the upcoming termination of the Loren Data VAN Interconnect are provided enough time and notice to migrate to alternatives.

Any GXS client enabled and defined to the Loren Data VAN Interconnect prior to November 1, 2013 will be able to use the service up until the date of termination which is March 4, 2014. GXS will be monitoring the environment from November 1, 2013 through March 4, 2014 to ensure that all users have been notified and migrated.

GXS maintains over 100 VAN Interconnects – more than any other service provider in the market. We would be happy to work with you and your trading partners to find a solution that supports one of our alternative VAN Interconnects or a solution natively on GXS.

If you have not already contacted us in regard to this matter, we have a support team ready to assist you in exploring alternative options to route your data if needed. Feel free to contact this support team by sending an email to GXS.INTERCONNECT@GXS.COM. More information can be found in the Interconnect Service Announcements section of our GXS Support Services website.


Robert Heidish
GXS Messaging Services Product Manager


Can’t understand why anybody in a go-go industry would want anything to do with a company stuck with 1990’s technology. Maybe GOLIATH is really a DINOSAUR in drag as a human?


Lots of Good News About the Utica Comets (even in August)!


An alien, an astronaut and a dog will compete to become the Utica Comets mascot.

So far, the space the me seems to be winning over local fans. Guess because a “comet” is something in space?

Fans can vote by filling out a form on the Utica Comets’ Facebook and Twitter pages. Voting ends at 5 p.m. Friday August 9

Have you checked out the new Utica Comets WebSite?

Keep watching for the schedule  in August.

Laurence Gilman, the VP of hockey operations for the Canucks is closely following the birth of the Comets as a new AHL franchise. He regards the Comets as very important to the whole Canucks organization.

(1) Younger players gain experience and hopefully move up to NHL and the Canucks

(2) The Comets are the reserve for Canucks in case of injury or illness.

GXS Same Same Penn Central ?


This article was recently printed in “EC-BP Electronic Commerce Best Practices” and is reprinted with permission of the author, Ken Kinlock

Scott Koegler recently wrote an article on “What’s Next for GXS”. My immediate reaction was this sounds very much like the Penn Central Railroad / CONRAIL disaster that took 30 years to finally solve. Lots of common keywords: “essential services”, “greedy investors”.

A little background then lets go for it. I will try and assume the common ground of readers is “investors”. I will try and carefully explain terms in the VAN industry and railroad industry.

In 2002 General Electric decided to divest their VAN business. Francisco Partners LP invested on a ten-year term in what became known as GXS. 10th anniversary rolls around and it became clear to Francisco that the investment was not turning out the way it had intended. Funny, but nobody else wants to pick up their investment (and the debt attached to it). Even an IPO is not an option. Again, Scott has laid out where GXS is (or isn’t).

Now why do I bring up Penn Central? Substitute “stock merger” for “private placement”, but keep the word “debt”. You have a classic “history repeats itself”. Penn Central was created by the merger in 1968, of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad. They immediately became the “darling” of the stock market, but by 1970 the company had filed for bankruptcy.

Talking Points


Penn Central / CONRAIL

What does an EDI VAN have to do with a railroad?

A VAN is like the U.S. Freight rail system. Both take your product; pack it in their own container (envelopes/files; box cars); move it to the recipient by a network of rails or phone:data lines (both built by private companies); switch from one to the other (no single VAN or railroad covers the whole country….yet); and finally deliver to the recipient (rail siding or VAN mailbox).

I thought these companies were all “blue chip” folks

General Electric spunoff GXS because it no longer fit their strategy. It didn’t fit right on those charts with “cash cows”, “rising stars”, and dogs.

New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad had been successful and paid high dividends since the mid 19th Century. Changing business conditions convinced everyone a merger would eliminate redundancy and make a combined company stronger.

What went awry with their business plans?

GXS’s “managed services” sector is growing, but other business, including VAN, is not. They have a huge debt service hitting them and are scrambling for revenue sources by considering charging subscription fees for every cross-connect. This might backfire by sending customers to look for other methods and avenues to transact electronic commerce.

  • Losses on commuter services

  • Mail and express business to air or truck

  • Management focus on amusement parks and other non-rail assets

  • Court decreed PC must include New Haven Railroad in their merger

Couldn’t a stronger company just buy them? Couldn’t they re-organize?

Francisco Partners carried out a market check with JPMorgan Chase on refinancing a subsequent IPO. The numbers were just not there! This is the same reason that nobody will buy them in total.

Other railroads had the same rate regulation problems corrected with passage of the Staggers Act in 1980 when many of these constraints were loosened, giving railroads more freedom to compete with trucks.

Could GXS sell off it’s VAN business and survive?

Yes. Scott’s article gave some ideas. Another idea would be a “neutral party” like a telecomm company who is good a rate setting and would charge all parties fairly (and still make a profit). Possibles are Verizon or Orange. Or forget the telcomm and go with pure Internet: VAN solution

CONRAIL took essential stuff. Long Distance Passenger Service to AMTRAK. Commuter service to New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and others (where it really belonged). Non-rail assets stayed with Penn Central and either survived (real estate), failed, or were sold.

Both companies enjoy/enjoyed a degree of monopoly protection. Shouldn’t that mean they would “always” make a profit?

If your customer uses their services, then you are forced to use their service to reach your customer. With fair, equitable pricing, there should not be a problem …but there is.

The railroad side of a monoply is simple. If your customer is on their railroad, you have to use them to reach customer. Else go with trucks. Guess too many shippers did just that.

Both companies had financial reports that were (are) as “clear as mud”. Both sound like the fruit dealer who has rotting pears and worms in his apples but talks about his great cherries and super strawberries.

What is the difference between “managed services” and “messaging services”? What is “data synchronization”? If a transaction was book incorrectly, who would know?

Look at the history of their stock price. Nobody knew how bad the bleeding was. Sometimes a fine line between regulated (railroad) and unregulated (amusement parks, etc). Always a way to move $$ from one to the other.

What about government intervention to protect “essential services”?

Some countries (example: South Africa) view VAN services differently but U.S. Has historically ignored them and left to the private sector. But anything is possible.

Congress created CONRAIL in 1976 to acquire the rail assets of Penn Central (and some other “problem children”). CONRAIL was sold in 1997 to CSX and Norfolk Southern. The government realized a “profit”.

Find out more on the Penn Central Railroad