Thursday, September 18, 2008

Short Lines, not as long but just as wide: Chatsworth and AREMA

Mass Transit Magazine has a very good review of the investigation of the Metrolink disaster up until now. What is the reaction of the politicians? As noted by Railway Age, it is pretty predictable, especially in an election year. I remember Will Rogers once saying that all a politician has to do is "Point with pride and view with alarm". More important, as the investigation goes forward, everyone learns not to jump to conclusions. Hopefully, the media is learning that, but probably not.

The Annual American Railway Engineering and Maintenance Association Conference is happening next week in Salt Lake City.

Rip will be there, of course! I have marked a session on the New Mexico Rail Runner Project, Flange Bearing Technology, and some new technology involving Track Substructure Characterization Using Ground Penetrating Radar as those I want to attend.

Hedge Funds have been rightfully pounded lately. Here are more blows. Last week, before it was known whether Hedge Fund reps would be seated on CSX's Board, the railroad's common stock closed at 61.61. Once speculation occurred that all four Hedge Fund reps would have to be seated according to Court Order, the railroad's common was all the way down to 50.60 before rebounding to 56.65 in today's rally. Doesn't look like investors like those Hedge Fund guys.

Looking for an interesting read? Check out "The Men Who Loved Trains" by Rush Loving, Jr. It cronicles the fall and rise of northeastern railroads from the mid fifties until the present, discussing the personalities, decisions, and directions of the PRR, NYC, Penn Central, Amtrak, Conrail, CSX, and Norfolk Southern as routes were cut up and handed out. One of the basic messages of the book is that the Penn Central was the Enron of its day, and if the government had held firm on its promise to control such abuse, events such as Enron and Worldcom would have never happened. My favorite part is a quote that distills the opinions of many concerning the accounting profession, to wit: “Despite the profession’s protestations that it ensures accuracy, accounting can be notoriously subjective, and one can make a logical case for two opposite treatments of the same business transaction.” Beautiful!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Metrolink Disaster

This morning, our thoughts and prayers are with all of the employees and patrons, and their families, who have been devastated by the head-on collision near Chatsworth involving Metrolink.

Links to various news items will not be posted here, for two reasons. First, you have already read at least one, depending on the depth of your personal interest. And second, the media is doing its usual "jumping to conclusions" with certain aspects of the story, and Rip will not be an accomplice to the spreading of stories that may or may not be true.

Having been a part of the management team of a Class One, and having been involved with the media as they investigate a rail disaster, I understand fully why the usual line, "It is still too early to say what caused this disaster; our investigation is still underway and ongoing, and still inconclusive at this time" is used by the railroad's media contact. My experience is that the media rarely comes back for the facts after reporting the initial sensationalism. However, I do believe that in this particular case, a better job in reporting will ultimately happen. Until then, patience is a virtue.

No investigation or reporting will ease the pain of those who have lost so much in this disaster, as evidenced by the emotion of Metrolink's spokesperson. Once again, let's keep them all in thought and prayer.