Gov. Cuomo, New York legislators implement measures to improve rail safety

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several top state legislators yesterday announced they reached an agreement on legislation designed to improve rail safety. The agreement includes a series of initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of train-motor vehicle collisions at grade crossings across the state.

The initiatives will require coordinated, frequent inspections of traffic-control devices at crossings, and impose penalties on railroads and repeat offender motorists who continue to disobey the law and ignore safety requirements, state officials said in a press release.

The legislation requires every railroad, municipality or state agency with jurisdiction of a highway that includes a crossing to conduct, at a minimum, biennial inspections of traffic-control devices. The law authorizes the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to establish, implement and exercise oversight over a program to coordinate the joint inspection of traffic-control signals interconnected with crossing warning systems.

The legislation also requires railroads to submit rail bridge inspection reports to NYSDOT according to the same schedule as required by the federal government; imposes monetary penalties up to $5,000 against railroads for each safety violation, such as a failure to immediately notify the state about an accident; and increases penalties for repeat offenders who fail to comply with safety regulations.
A new state law requires frequent inspections of traffic-control devices at crossings. Photo: Gov. Cuomo’s Office

The measures will ensure state law conforms to federal safety requirements and aligns with federal railroad bridge inspection requirements, state officials said.

“New York’s railways are critical to this state’s transportation network and we must ensure they meet the highest possible safety standards,” Cuomo said. “By requiring frequent inspections at grade crossings and increasing penalties for those who continue to violate the law and ignore important safety requirements, this agreement will help to reduce the amount of preventable tragedies that have occurred at these crossings over the years.”

Under the agreement, Cuomo also will launch a pilot program to improve motorists’ awareness and behavior at crossings. Existing provisions of New York’s vehicle and traffic law require motorists to observe safe driving behaviors at crossings, but many of them fail to comply with the safety requirements per law enforcement reports, the governor said.


PRR 6518 at the Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati

The Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati maintains over 80 trains, magnificently large and stunning to look at Jun 6, 2016

The Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati is a railroad museum in Covington, Kentucky, at the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad yard. The museum owns and maintains a collection of 80 historic railroad equipment and acquires several new pieces each year to their home in the Latonia Rail Yard. Located on a 4-acre (16,000 m2) site, the museum displays several classic, well-known vehicles, as well as rarities that will impress rail experts. The museum is located at 315 Southern Avenue in the Latonia area of Covington. The majority of the collection is from the first half of the 20th century.

This museum was founded in 1975 when a club of local railroad enthusiasts decided to run passenger cars on Amtrak trains. However, in the 1980s, Amtrak tightened its restrictions on passenger cars, making it too difficult (and expensive) for the club members to continue running their recreational rides. Though the Amtrak excursions ended, the cars remained as the core of the present collection. At that point, the goal of the museum changed and now focuses on the preservation of the equipment. Tom Holley, former Chairman of the Board, stated: “Now the primary purpose of the museum is the collection of the equipment that belonged to the seven railroads then entered Cincinnati.”

nside the cars, you’ll find original seats, gears, and even sinks. The original passenger cars remained and today there are roughly 80 trains, artifacts, and pieces of equipment, including sleeping cars, box cars, dining cars, switchers, diesel locomotives and even an old railway post office. Most of the collection stems from the 1930s-1950s, while other railcars date back to as early as 1908. The museum owns and maintains a collection of authentic trains and railroad equipment. Most of the collection stems from the 1930s-1950s, while other railcars date back to as early as 1908.

Pennsylvania Railroad E8 locomotive #5888 has been undergoing restoration for the past few years. A “theatrical” baggage car (the Juliet, one of 47 built by the Pennsy between 1917 and 1922) sits on the track beside the locomotive and will serve as a mobile staging area for the renovation. The Museum also has a large collection of Pullman-Standard cars including the Metropolitan View built in 1938 for the PRR’s Broadway Limited and a BM70nb railway post office (PRR #6518) modernized for the same train. Many of the Pullman-Standard cars were built as part of the Fleet of Modernism in the 1930s. Visitors are welcome to explore the museum. Some vehicles are designated as “climb aboard,” which welcomes guests to walk through a passenger car, or sit in the engineer’s seat in a locomotive.

Toyota SCM Control Tower and IoT

“It wasn’t so long ago that we looked at the contributions that IT had to manufacturing, specifically to the core business, and said hmm, we’re not doing so much,” said Tim Platt, Toyota group vp and chief divisional information officer.

On Wednesday, three Toyota Motor North America executives joined IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing & Technology Conference to talk about the role IT plays in the Toyota Production System and the company’s outlook on automation and the Internet of Things.

First, Jim Moore, Senior Vice President, Unit Plants/Lexus Leader shared some statistics. Toyota has six vehicle assembly plants in the U.S., with 14 plants overall in North America. Some 365,000 U.S. jobs have been created as a direct result of Toyota operations. The company has invested $35 billion in parts and materials, and its direct capital investment in the U.S. totals $22 billion.

Priorities for this year include meeting high sales demand. “It’s shaping up to be the 7th consecutive year of U.S. market growth,” said Moore. In addition, high demand for trucks and SUVS, “so we’re squeezing all we can out of our existing capacity, improving efficiencies, working alternative shifts over time and making some small strategic investments to reduce cycle times and bottleneck processes and improve flexibility.”

So they set about establishing a program called Advanced IT for Manufacturing to incorporate other areas of the business. So far, the program’s North American steering committee has implemented 32 smart manufacturing systems. “In our operations and maintenance area, we’re collecting data from the plant floor and visualizing those on dashboards and reports and mobile devices,” said Platt. “We’re pulling it in that an industrial big data share so we can do cross-pillar predictive analytics.”

One of those systems, the Toyota Operations Availability System (TOAD), has  saved 40,000 minutes in one plant, for a total of $6 million in avoidance and savings.

Another, a big data control tower for dashboard that provides an integrated tracking of the parts supply chain, has resulted in an $187 million per year downtime avoidance. “We recently had a a bridge closing that affected in the ballpark of 200 routes,” said Platt. “With the new capability, getting those routes going in a better direction was a matter of a few minutes.”

Moore said that at Toyota, instead of holding on to more inventory to avoid downtime during disruptions, “the better answer is to reduce production lead times and increasing our flexibility on each production line.” Keys to this are being able to run multiple product types on a line, having information systems that capture conditions in real time so team members can react quickly and having flexibility in terms of volume without impacting productivity.

The group also talked about how Toyota integrates new technologies. There are two types of opportunities to implement technology changes, said Platt. One is during a change in the production process. Another is “when we understand there’s a challenge … and we want to consider the new business processes and adoption,” and look at how technology can contribute.

“It’s not production saying hey, let’s implement this new kind of robot,” he said. “It starts with the business challenge, the business opportunity.”

Trever White, divisional information officer, noted that his team is regularly on the plant floor, building good relationships so team members can articulate what their challenges are. One challenge they recently identified was the need to build a containment system to more quickly identify and contain a quality issue when it emerges. ‘

“Now the members carry around an iPhone with a scanner on it, and no matter where the containment is, they can do a scan, they can check for whether it was impacted, they can repair the vehicle and they can confirm it,” said White. Before, “the members were going to Starbucks, they were logging in, trying to figure out where the cars were at that particular time. Now we know where they are—we can contain the issue and reduce the time. That building a good partnership generated more and more work for us.”

Platt says Toyota sees a huge IoT opportunity in putting sensors on equipment. “Even the older equipment,” he said. “We were talking about an example we had in paint. Our engineers were manually collecting data, it was taking weeks and weeks to validate a problem, we brought in one of our strategic vendors, put in a predictive maintenance tool to show proof of concept. One of the paint engineers came back and said you know it’s taken me eight weeks to figure out that was a problem; you guys did it in two hours.”

Moore noted that in North America, technology steps in when workers don’t have the deep kaizen experience that veteran Japan shop floor members have. “Just walking through their production lines they can quickly spot problems and then make quick kaizen,” he said. “We struggle more in being able to identify those problems. So we spend a lot of time on data gathering and analysis, and less time on problem solving and kaizen.” Developing a system using IoT to e able to capture data in real time, do automated analysis of it and create visualizations for team members has “helped offset the gap in experience level, and it’s been a real game changer.”

Platt said that the company looks as robots as “enabling, not taking over. They are to be used where they facilitiate strong Just in Time capabilities. They’re also there to assist the humans that are doing the job. Areas that are very labor intensive like body work where it’s hard for the team member to do what needs to be done, they’re very widely used and effective.

“As you move into some of the other areas, the team member needs to be there in order to be the thinking person who’s making the decision, who improves and kaizens the process. So you see fewer robots in those areas where we want that thinking style and that iterative kaizen principle. Robots are enabling but they’re not taking over.

Added Moore: “Robots and technology are one way to eliminate team members’ burden for those difficult jobs. But when I consider and think about the difficulty in defining Lexus quality, it’s almost an experience rather than something you can get down to numbers. It’s difficult for me to imagine automating that level of quality.”

Industry Week

The North South Rail Link project connecting — indeed creating — a New England Regional Rail System through Boston has been proposed as a critical infrastructure project for more than 35 years.

The North South Rail Link project connecting — indeed creating — a New England Regional Rail System through Boston has been proposed as a critical infrastructure project for more than 35 years. It has now been given a new push by a broad-ranging coalition of elected and appointed officials, business leaders, transportation advocates, and others, led by former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis.

An Integrated Regional Rail NetworkFor New England

The Prospects and Promises OfA New Engand Rail Connector

Ulster County won’t extend Catskill Mountain Railroad’s lease

The Catskill Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express train crosses Washington Avenue in Kingston in December 2014. Tania Barricklo — Daily Freeman file

KINGSTON >> An effort to keep the Catskill Mountain Railroad chugging past the end of the month was derailed this week when members of an Ulster County Legislature committee postponed action on a resolution that would have extended the lease between the county and scenic train operator.

The move by the Economic Development, Tourism Planning, Housing and Transit Committee blocks any chance that the lease will be extended because the earliest committee members could revisit the measure would be in June, after the lease expires.

Under a lease with the county that expires on May 31, the Catskill Mountain Railroad runs tourist trains on two portions of the tracks within the county-owned Ulster and Delaware rail corridor — one in the Kingston area, the other in the town of Shandaken.

The resolution would have extended the lease until a new operator is chosen or the end of the year, whichever came first, said Legislator David Donaldson, D-Kingston, a sponsor of the measure.

Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, R-Wallkil, said extending the county’s lease with the railroad could send “the wrong message” to potential new operators of a tourist train.

“We need to keep moving forward,” said Committee Chairman James Maloney, R-town of Ulster. “I don’t know what extending that lease two months more would do to that entire process.”

On Wednesday, Donaldson called the committee’s action “short-sighted” and said it could result in the loss of the Polar Express, a popular wintertime tourist attraction run by the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Such a loss, he said, would hurt nearby businesses in Kingston.

“A continuation of the lease would ensure we could still have the Polar Express this winter,” Donaldson said. “Without the extension, they’re most likely not going to be able to secure the Polar Express, which bought some 30,000 people into the city last year.”

Donaldson said if another vendor is chosen to run a tourist train along the tracks, the licensing agreement for that attraction could have been transferred from the Catskill Mountain Railroad to the new operator.

In April, more than a dozen speakers at a Legislature meeting called on the county to consider extending the lease. City resident Ralph Mitchell submitted a petition signed by 23 city businesses also calling for short-term extension.

As part of a settlement in April ending the Catskill Mountain Railroad’s lawsuit against the county, the railroad agreed to end its scenic train operations at the end of the lease, vacate the Cornell Street rail yard in Kingston and forfeit a bond in order to cover the county’s legal expenses in the matter.

A battle over control over the county’s tracks, largely along and near the Route 28 corridor, erupted in 2012 when County Executive Michael Hein announced plans to convert most of the 38.6-mile right-of-way to a recreational trail. Under Hein’s initial plan, only the section in Shandaken was to continue being used for train operations.

Shortly after making that announcement, the county served the railroad with legal papers claiming the railroad was in violation of its lease and demanding it immediately remedy the deficiencies. That action sparked the 2013 lawsuit by the railroad.

Hein later proposed, and the county Legislature approved, a compromise under which train rides would continue to be allowed on the two sections of track currently used by the railroad.

The county now is soliciting proposals from tourist train operators interested in operating along the rail line. The submission deadline is May 20.

• • •

“Settlement ends legal battle between Catskill Mountain Railroad, Ulster County,” April 19, 2016

“Time could be running short for Phoenicia Rail Yard proposal.” March 23, 2016

“Ulster County seeks proposals from seven tourist train operators for U&D line,” March 10, 2016

“Shandaken zoning board puts off decision on Catskill Mountain Railroad yard in Phoenicia,” Feb. 22, 2016

“Phoenicia won’t be dumping ground for Catskill Mountain Railroad items from Kingston, group’s president says,” Feb. 9, 2016

“With lease on county tracks about to expire and future uncertain, Catskill Mountain Railroad plans a Phoenicia rail yard.” Jan. 26, 2016

“Catskill Mountain Railroad ordered to stop using Kingston rail yard,” Jan. 20, 2016

“Ulster County rail-trail compromise brings lengthy battle to a close,” Jan. 15, 2016



Patricia Doxsey, Daily Freeman