Railroad Cool News

Cover Photo is a Syracuse to Utica trolley waiting for a NY Central mainline passenger train in downtown Syracuse, New York.

Links to videos: 1 hr. 25 minute ride Southeast to Grand Central Terminal (old NY Central Harlem Line). Links to other videos covering the rest of Metro-North.

April 10, 1922 The plans for Cleveland Union Terminal are approved. The 52-storey Terminal Tower will be the tallest building west of New York.

ClevelandTerminalTower

 April 10, 1936 The Palomar observatory mirror arrives in Pasadena CA after a 16-day cross-country trip by rail.

April 6, 1958 The New York Central Railroad ends commuter service on the Putnam Division.

 April 6, 1962 The State of New York amends its constitution to allow the state to guarantee bonds for the purchase of new commuter equipment on the New York Central, Long Island and New Haven railroads.

April 4, 1910 An amendment to the Safety Appliance Act requires freight cars to be equipped with ladders, handholds and running boards.

March 30, 1952 The last freight delivered by an Indiana Public Service Company freight motor is made to the company’s Ft. Wayne power plant by motor 817. Future deliveries will be made by the New York Central.

 March 30, 1959 The New York Central agrees to pay the Illinois Central $5 million (2016: $41 million) for breaching its contract to have Michigan Central trains terminate at Central Station in Chicago. NYC has moved them to LaSalle Street station.

March 10, 1945 New York Central accepts its first 4-8-4 “Niagara”, #6000, at the Alco factory in Schenectady NY.

niagaraphoto1

 
Advertisements

Watco Transloading acquires Louisville terminal

Watco Transloading LLC announced yesterday it has acquired the assets of River Road Terminals LLC of Louisville, Ky., which handles dry bulk commodities.

In conjunction with the acquisition, Watco entered into a 10-year lease of the underlying 38 acres of real estate, with an option to take ownership at the end of the lease, Watco officials said in a press release.

The terminal is located at Mile Marker 601 on the Ohio River. Rail access is provided by Central Kentucky Lines operated by R.J. Corman Railroad Group, which interchanges with CSX in Louisville and Winchester, Ky., and Norfolk Southern Railway in Lexington, Ky.

Watco currently serves many of the terminal’s current customers on its railroads, which makes the acquisition a good fit, Watco executives said.

“This adds a third terminal in the Louisville/Jeffersonville area for Watco and serves to diversify the commodities and industries we serve,” said Will Patterson, Watco’s senior vice president of marketing and sales.

River Road Terminals had been owned by Paul Buddeke for more than 40 years. The terminal “will be a great addition to the Watco network,” Buddeke said.

Amtrak responds to FRA safety directive following deadly accident

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has directed Amtrak to conduct an immediate safety review with key workers, including track workers and train dispatchers, as the regulator continues its investigation into this week’s fatal train accident in Chester, Pa.

The FRA also directed Amtrak to improve communication among work crews, supervisors and rail dispatchers.

The directive suggests that investigators may be focusing on a breakdown in communication that may have occurred between shift changes prior to the crash, various news media reported yesterday.

Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said yesterday in a prepared statement that the railroad agrees with the FRA directive and is moving to take immediate action.

The accident occurred when Amtrak Train 89 struck a backhoe that two Amtrak maintenance workers were using on a stretch of track just outside Chester, Pa. Both workers were killed.

The FRA and the National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating the crash. Neither agency has said who was authorized to be on the track.

To ensure compliance, Amtrak will begin a “safety stand down” with all active crews “to draw immediate attention to and reinforce understanding of an issue that we believe has the potential to affect the safety of the railroad or our employees,” Boardman said.

“We have a systematic approach to launching a safety stand down to ensure all employees are reached with this critical message,” he added.

Where Is ERP Heading In 2016?

An enterprise resource planning system can be one of the most transformative investments a company makes. By integrating accounting and finance with sales, manufacturing, human resources, and other functions, an ERP system can significantly improve a company’s efficiency and productivity, and help it take growth to the next level. Over the past 20 years, the software has become increasingly powerful and versatile, offered by an ever-changing landscape of providers. Panorama Consulting Solutions, an ERP consultancy, currently lists more than 120 ERP vendors on its website, from ABAS Software to xTuple.

If the software is better than ever, implementing it has remained an expensive, frustrating exercise for many companies. Panorama’s studies reveal a discouraging lack of improvement in completing ERP implementations on time and within budget, while many firms fall well short of realizing the software’s anticipated benefits (see charts below).

Today, the ERP industry seems to be reaching an inflection point, with cloud-based systems posing a growing threat to the established order of on-premise software. Recently, CFO asked Eric Kimberling, founder and managing partner of Denver-based Panorama Consulting, to put the cloud and other significant ERP trends in perspective for chief financial officers. An edited version of the interview follows.

At what point does a company start thinking about implementing an ERP system?
Usually it’s when you start to feel the stress cracks of, say, the QuickBooks system or Excel spreadsheets that you’re using to manage the business. And usually it’s companies in high-growth mode that feel the stress the fastest. You start to realize that you don’t have a handle on what’s actually going on within the organization in terms of inventory management and real-time visibility of the financials and things like that. There’s a tipping point when the management team feels like they can’t grow or scale the company under those circumstances, and they know they need some kind of system that can give them more accurate information, better visibility, more integrated information.

According to Panorama, more and more small and midsize businesses are adopting ERP software systems. What’s driving that trend?
For one thing, there is a plethora of options on the market that are cost-effective and relatively low risk compared to 10 or 20 years ago. A lot of upstarts are providing niche solutions or lower-cost systems that can be adopted relatively quickly. Also, you have companies like Salesforce that have gained a lot of traction by focusing on a narrow niche within ERP, like customer relationship management. Those two factors combined are leading a lot of SMBs to adopt ERP systems.

16Feb_SR_ERP_p40One of the biggest recent trends in ERP has been the rapid emergence of cloud-based systems. What should CFOs know about the cloud?
The first thing they should know about the cloud is that it isn’t the only option for organizations looking for ERP solutions. There has been a lot of hype around cloud solutions, and the adoption rate is certainly on the rise. But there are still a number of different ways that companies can deploy an ERP system.

There are two approaches to adopting a cloud-based ERP system, right?
Yes. One is the software-as-a-service or SaaS model. Essentially it’s a subscription model where you’re accessing a multi-tenant version of the software, meaning you’re sharing the same version of the software that everyone else is using. Your data is still isolated and protected from other organizations. The other approach is the private-cloud model, where you own the software. You can tailor it to fit your needs, but someone else is hosting the software for you. So it’s a hybrid model.

Cloud ERP is touted as a cheaper alternative to on-premise systems. Is it in fact cheaper?
The short-term costs are generally lower for cloud and SaaS solutions. But when you look at the longer-term costs, you usually find that the break-even point for an on-premise ERP system is somewhere around five and seven years. So you’re going to pay more money up front, but over time you’re probably going to pay less, because you’re not going to have those ongoing subscription costs. You’re only going to be paying for maintenance and the cost of managing your internal infrastructure — which isn’t insignificant, but generally is not as high as the ongoing cost of a SaaS or a cloud solution.

16Feb_SR_ERP_TableIt’s almost like the lease-versus-buy decision when you’re buying a car: It depends on what you want to do. If you’re a small startup, or if you know this is going to be a short-term solution, cloud ERP makes total sense. We’ve consulted with a lot of companies that are owned by private equity firms, and their goal is to implement an ERP system at a low cost because they know they’re going to be sold off to someone else that will probably force them to adopt their ERP system.

For a large multinational corporation that has a robust and sophisticated IT group, it may make more sense to get some of those economies of scale by investing in an on-premise solution. Now, my observations could change over time as the SaaS model and the cloud model continue to evolve. But today, there’s still a very healthy market for on-premise solutions.

Is security an issue with a cloud system?
A lot of people are afraid to pull the trigger on cloud applications because they worry that they’re not going to have control over the security and the actual data itself. But in reality, most cloud providers will provide more security than the average internal IT department does.

So cloud ERP is safer than on-premise software?
It is. You have to think about the business models of the cloud and SaaS providers: If they have even just one breach, their entire business goes away. Not to mention the fact that the cloud and SaaS providers generally have entire teams whose sole responsibility is providing and monitoring security, usually in a more sophisticated way than the average internal IT department provides.

16Feb_SR_ERP_PieChartHave there been any breaches at cloud ERP providers?
I’m not aware of any. I’m sure there have been plenty of attempts, and probably some minor breaches that we don’t hear about.

Two more trends in ERP are consumerization — designing interfaces that resemble social media — and mobility, making the system accessible via smartphones and tablets.
Yes, vendors are spending a lot on user interfaces to make them look and feel more like Facebook or Twitter — not only the visual aspects, but also how you communicate in the system, using features like the Chatter application in Salesforce, for example. So the user-interface aspect is certainly becoming consumerized.

As for access to the ERP system anywhere through smartphones and tablets, that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it’s something that more and more people want, especially employees and executives who aren’t tethered to their PCs at the office but are working remotely a lot of the time.

ERP systems have incorporated more and more functionality over the years. What functions do they still lack?
Enterprise performance management is one. Another is point-of-sale, even though that’s not a sophisticated system per se — every retailer has some form of it. But the integration with ERP is inconsistent at best. Also, few vendors have cracked the code on demand planning and forecasting. Business intelligence is still an area that some vendors are struggling with. Those are just a few examples.

Customization is still seen as a dirty word by many CFOs and CIOs, but you recently predicted that customizing ERP will become mainstream practice.
Our research shows that roughly 9 out of 10 organizations customize their software to some degree. That’s not to say that customization is a good thing and you should just embrace it, but no ERP system is going to meet every need of an organization. So it’s a matter of cherry-picking areas that are the high-value core competencies of your organization where maybe it does make sense to customize — without going too far down that slippery slope.

16Feb_SR_ERP_BarChartLet’s talk about ERP implementation. In 2014, according to Panorama, 55% of ERP projects exceeded their budgets, 75% ran over schedule, and 41% delivered half or less of the anticipated benefits. Many CFOs would find these numbers daunting.
Not only are those numbers daunting to many people, but the bad news is they haven’t improved much over the past five years. But the good news is that organizations can avoid being on the negative side of those statistics if they manage their projects effectively. And the first and foremost thing they need to do is just have realistic expectations from the start. Where companies go sideways in their implementations is when they have completely unrealistic expectations, either because they don’t have the experience of implementing ERP, or because they are relying too much on what a sales rep is telling them regarding the duration and the cost.

How do you achieve the right balance between finance and IT in an ERP implementation?
It’s a good question, because you don’t want to let the technology get away from you and become so complicated that it turns into an IT project rather than a business transformation. So it’s important to find that right balance between business and technology.

Before going down the path of trying to figure out whether you need a single ERP system or best-of-breed, an on-premise solution or a SaaS solution, it’s better to back up and look at the overall objectives of the company — to make sure that what you’re trying to accomplish with an ERP system is clearly defined. Then you can make the technical decisions through the lens of what you’re trying to do strategically, rather than, say, just adopting SaaS for SaaS’ sake, because you’ve heard all the hype and you decide that it’s the way to go.

Given that the ERP landscape is so complex and changing so quickly, companies should be more strategic and really think through their options. Too many companies just want to rush ahead and make a quick decision. The more time you invest up front in thinking things through, evaluating the software, and planning the implementation, the better off you will be downstream.

GREGORY PORTER: 35. Leverkusener Jazztage 2014

Jazz You Too

A giant like Gregory Porter would have been perfect for playing American football professionally, serious injuries ended that dream, his mother whispered him at her deathbed that he should try to become a professional singer, something he had never considered before. Her words had an impact on him, as much as her death, Gregory started pursuing something that he had no idea how it could become true.

A deep rich voice singing sad words, expressing what he has been through in life, his first album was released when he was 40, the following years brought him but success!

At the 35. Leverkusener Jazztage 2014 edition, Gregory Porter demonstrates the huge international success he has reached!

A fabulous composer, singer and performer!

Tracklist:
1. No Love Dying 2. Liquid Spirit 3. Wolfcry 4. Work Song 5. Musical Genocide 6. Be Good 7. Free 8. 1960 What?
Personnel: Gregory Porter – vocals Yosuke Sato – alto sax Chip Crawford – piano Aaron…

View original post 31 more words

Ted Cruz, Unwelcome in The Bronx, Gets a Taste of ‘New York Values’

e may be riding a high after his win in Wisconsin, but New Yorkers are ready to bring Texas Sen. Ted Cruz back to reality.

The Republican presidential candidate who has criticized Donald Trump for his “New York values,” spent Wednesday campaigning in the Bronx, a borough of New York City known for its largely Hispanic and black population. But the day didn’t go as planned.

At one campaign stop, protesters and hecklers interrupted Cruz’s stump speech and approached him on the street, yelling that Cruz has “no business in the Bronx.” And later in the day, the Texas senator was forced to cancel a visit to a Bronx high school after students planned a walk out.

The U.S. Census Bureau considers the Bronx to be the most diverse area in the country — more than 53 percent of the population is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin. Those diverse residents made it clear on Wednesday that they are not pleased with Cruz’s plans to deport millions of people including children and to hire Trump to build a Mexican border wall, despite the senator’s upbringing by an immigrant father.

One protester, Rodrigo Venegas, interrupted Cruz’s event to call him a “right-wing bigot.”

“You’re running on an anti-immigrant platform, and you’re speaking in the Bronx,” Venegas told Cruz. “You should not be here.”

Kira Lerner, ThinkProgress

Yes, Bernie Sanders Knows Something About Breaking Up Banks

ernie Sanders probably knows more about breaking up banks than his critics give him credit for.

The Daily News on Monday published an interview with him that led some commentators to say he didn’t know how to break up the country’s biggest banks. Downsizing the largest financial institutions is one of Mr. Sanders’s signature policies, so it would indeed raise questions about his candidacy if he had little idea of how to do it.

In the interview, with The Daily News’s editorial board, Mr. Sanders does appear to get tangled up in some details and lacks clarity. Breaking up the banks would involve arcane and complex regulatory moves that can trip up any banking policy wonk, let alone a presidential candidate. But, taken as a whole, Mr. Sanders’s answers seem to make sense. Crucially, his answers mostly track with a reasonably straightforward breakup plan that he introduced to Congress last year.

Peter Eavis, The New York Times

Higher-speed rail route in Michigan would be profitable, study finds

Establishing 110 mph passenger-rail service between Detroit and Holland, Mich., could generate more than $12 million in annual profit, according to a recent study prepared on behalf of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC).

The “Coast-to-Coast Passenger Rail Ridership and Cost Estimate Study” examined three potential routes that could be established by upgrading existing rail.

Providing 110 mph service would require greater capital investment, but would yield higher ridership that would allow the service to recover its operating costs, Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) officials said in a press release. The service could generate $12 million in yearly profit on a route through Ann Arbor and Howell, Mich.

Establishing basic 79 mph service on the 186-mile route through Ann Arbor and Howell would require an annual subsidy of about $3 million and an upfront investment of $130 million, MEC officials said, noting that the amount is comparable to the cost of building 13 miles of interstate highway.

Concurrent with the study, the MEC and the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers collected feedback on the “Coast-to-Coast” project from 575 Michigan residents online and in person.

“Business leaders, economic developers, local governments and college students have all told us they support the idea of knitting together our cities, cultural centers and other institutions by rail,” said Liz Treutel Callin, transportation policy associate for the MEC. “Now we have an in-depth report showing that the Coast-to-Coast passenger rail project is one worth pursuing, with significant potential benefits for Michigan’s economy and quality of life.”

The next step toward establishing passenger-rail service is a full feasibility study to include environmental impact analyses, an implementation plan and a review of public-private partnership options, MEC officials said.


A map shows three routes examined by the study.
(Click to view larger)
Source: Michigan Environmental Council

I (Penney) was selective in showing an unusual picture of the actual train. Reason is that to be a success, it MUST tie into CHICAGO at the Western side. How about dual-propulsion equipment. System would tie into the South Shore Railroad at SHOPS in Michigan City and run on electric right into downtown Chicago. Elsewhere: diesel or “think out of the box”

Yes Virginia, There Is More to SEARCH Than GOOGLE

Are you sick and tired of how Google favors those who pay Google?

Bing

Microsoft’s search engine is the second most popular search engine in the world, with 15.8% of the search market.

Bing homepage

But why should you use Bing? Lifehacker has some great articles where they try to convince themselves as much as anyone else why Bing is a serious contender to Google. Plus points include:

  • Bing’s video search is significantly better than Google’s, giving you a grid of large thumbnails that you can click on to play or preview if you hover over them.
  • Bing often gives twice as many autocomplete suggestions than Google does.
  • Bing can predict when airfares are about to go up or down if you’re searching for flights.
  • Bing also has a feature where if you type linkfromdomain:[site name] it will highlight the best ranked outgoing links from that site, helping you figure out which other sites your chosen site links to the most.

Also note that Bing powers Yahoo’s search engine.

DuckDuckGo

The key feature of DuckDuckGo is that it doesn’t retain its users’ data, so it won’t track you or manipulate results based on your behaviour. So if you’re particularly spooked by Google’s all-seeing, all-knowing eye, this might be the one for you.

DuckDuckGo homepage

There’s lots more info on DuckDuckGo’s performance here.

Quora

As Google gets better and better at answering more complicated questions, it will never be able to match the personal touch available with Quora.

quora

Ask any question and its erudite community will offer their replies. Or you can choose from any similar queries previously asked.

Dogpile

Dogpile may look like a search engine you cobbled together with clip-art, but that’s rather the point as it pulls in and ‘curates’ results from various different engines including Google, Yandex and Yahoo, but removes all the ads.

Dogpile Web Search

Vimeo

Of course if you’re going to give up Google, then you’ll also have to give up YouTube, which can be a terrifying prospect. But there is an alternative. And a pretty good one at that… Vimeo. The professional’s choice of video-sharing site, which has lots of HD video and no ads.

otis the cat reviews in videos on Vimeo

Yandex

This is a Russian portal, offering many similar products and services as Google, and it’s the dominant search engine in Russia.

As you can see it offers results in a nice logical format, replete with favicons so you can clearly see the various channels for your branded queries.

search engine watch on Yandex

Boardreader

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of a subject with a variety of different points of view away from the major publications, Boardreader surfaces results purely from forums, message boards and, of course, Reddit.

Boardreader Forum Search Engine

WolframAlpha

WolframAlpha is a ‘computational knowledge engine’, or super clever nerd to you and me. Ask it to calculate any data or ask it about any fact and it will give you the answer. Plus it does this awesome ‘computing’ thing while it thinks about your answer (which can take a short while.)

what really killed the dinosaurs Wolfram Alpha

It’s not always successful, you have to practice how to get the best from it. But at least it’s aware of the terrible 90s television show The Dinosaurs.

IxQuick

Another search engine that puts its users’ privacy at the forefront. With IxQuick none of your details are stored and no cookies are used. A user can set preferences, but they will be deleted after 90 days of inactivity.

Ixquick Search Engine

Ask.com

Oh look… Ask Jeeves is still around. Also he’s no longer a Wodehousian butler, but a computer generated bank manager. Weird.

Ask Jeeves

It’s still a slightly mediocre search engine pretending to be a question and answer site, but the ‘Popular Q&A’ results found on the right hand side are very handy if Jeeves himself can’t satisfy your query. And what a good use of the right-hand side space, huh Google.

SlideShare

SlideShare is a really handy place to source information from presentations, slide decks, webinars and whatever else you may have missed from not attending a conference.

You’ll also be surprised what information you can find there.

hamburgers on SlideShare

Addict-o-matic

“Inhale the web” with the friendly looking hoover guy by creating your own topic page, which you can bookmark and see results from a huge number of channels in that one page (including Google, Bing News, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr).

Addictomatic Inhale the Web

Creative Commons Search

CC Search is particularly handy if you need to find copyright free images for your website (as discussed in this post on image optimisation for SEO). Just type your query in then click on your chosen site you want to search.

CC Search

Giphy

Because really, when it comes down to it, we could imagine a worse dystopian future than one in which we all communicate entirely in Gifs.

GIPHY homepage