Saturday, February 15, 2014

Central Maine & Quebec Railway

Bankruptcy judges in Quebec and Maine have approved the sale of the insolvent Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) railway involved in July 6, 2013 deadly accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that claimed 47 lives.

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic filed for bankruptcy on August 7, 2013. Railroad Acquisition Holdings, an affiliate of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, will pay US$16.85 million for the entire network in both countries.

[ Ed note:  News reports vary wildly over the purchase price. Indeed, Robert Keach, the railroad company’s trustee in its bankruptcy proceedings, said he made a typo in first reporting the sale prince. He confirms the sale was for USD$16.85 million. (from Bangor Daily News)]

In addition, more than US$1.6 million is expected to be received from the dispersal of 25 locomotives to other buyers. Make note of this statement, we revisit this statement later.

So the disgraced MM&A passes into the history books.

The new name will be Central Main & Quebec Railroad.

Railroad Acquisition Holdings plans to finalize purchase "details" by the end of March, 2014.

So how did we get here?

It all began in an exciting time of Canadian rail expansion. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Company was incorporated on February 16, 1881 and was charged with completing the  transcontinental railway  the federal government had initiated a decade earlier.

Completed in 1885, regular train service between the company’s eastern terminus in Montreal and its western terminus in Port Moody, British Columbia began in 1886.

Eastward expansion from Montreal, across the state of Maine, to Saint John, New Brunswick, was completed in 1889.

Fast forward

On September 1, 1988, Canadian Pacific formed an operating division, named the Canadian Atlantic Railway (CAR.)

CAR was the old CPR Atlantic Division mainline east from Sherbrooke, Quebec, through the State of Maine, and into the Province of New Brunswick. CAR was given control over all CP lines southeast of Montreal to Saint John and other points.

During the early 1990s, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, under the influence of "kumbaya," discussed a range of options to rationalize ( read: downsize) their respective eastern networks including a merger of the two networks and proposals by each carrier to purchase the assets of the other.

Kumbaya wore off; ultimately the scenarios did not prove viable.

CP proceeded over a number of years to rationalize (read: downsize) its entire eastern network including all of its lines east of Montreal, with the routes operating across Maine and New Brunswick to the port of Saint John (operating as the Canadian Atlantic Railway) being sold or abandoned.

The Canadian Pacific main line west of Brownville Junction, Maine west toward Montreal, along with the north-south Bangor Aroostook Railroad, were acquired by the Iron Road Railways, Inc. and operated as the Canadian American Railroad.

Despite strong efforts to become viable, this operation started bankruptcy proceedings in 2002. In 2003, a new group, Edward Burkhart's Rail World, Incorporated  acquired the Iron Road Railways and began operations as the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

• On July 6, 2013, a suspected operational error resulted in a runaway train, which darn near destroyed a town.

• On August 7, 2013, Ed Burkrhart's MM&A declared bankruptcy.

• On February 13, 2014, A U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved a tentative sale agreement with Railroad Acquisition Holdings.

And that's how we got here.

I am curious.

If there will be an operating "Central Maine & Quebec," how can it operate without motive power?  After all, news accounts clearly reflect income of USD1.7M from the "dispersal" of 25 locomotives.

Or is Central Maine & Quebec a "name of convenience" for liquidation of the plant?

Further speculation is found in the Sunday February 16, 2014 "Portland Press Hearld." The Telegraph is overlooking the dilapidated run from Montreal to Searsport. That's why most of the line, with it's cracked rail top, beat up ties with grass growing up between them, ran under restricted speed.

It simply is not capable of handling weight.

Remember the photo of the Lac-Mégantic Public Library reduced to ashes? The library society received a tsunami of books from people in Canada, United State and Europe.

Financial assistance to build a new edifice was also overwhelming.

They hope to be moved into their new building this year.

And a pleading with kind folk, "Stop sending books!"

Friday, February 14, 2014

Locomotive "Respecting" a BMW!

Really enjoying the "Putin Games." Too bad the weather is screwing up the slopes. That happens when you host winter games at a summer resort.

Be that as it may, of the hand full of commercials that I consider cleaver and entertaining, the BMW X5 commercial, "Respect," caught my attention, wondering what type of locomotive is it, and what railroad does it operate on.

The premise is that not only a biker swarm, but also a train stops in respect of a passing BMW X5.

Are you able to identify the locomotive? It seems to be electric, with a modified GM type nose. And it's obviously in the Alps or Pyrenees. I've pointed out the "clues;" now lets some answers!

Send me your solution by clicking on the E-Mail mail box button in the right hand margin.

Top of my Sochi Winter Olympics commercials list, as usual, United Airlines. "Athletes Aboard," features George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," composed in 1924.

The "passengers" include, with their social media tags:
•  Gracie Gold, Figure Skating: @GraceEGold
•  Shani Davis, Speedskating: @ShaniDavis
•  Sarah Hendrickson, Ski Jumping: @schendrickson
•  Erin Hamlin, Luge: @erinhamlin
•  Ralph Green, Para Alpine Skiing: @bkskiman
•  Dallas Roberts, Bobsled: @DRobUSA
•  Allison Jones, Para Alpine Skiing: @Jonezyrocks
•  Steve Langton, Bobsled: @StevenLangton
•  Nick Cunningham, Bobsled: @BOBSLEDR
•  Travis Jayner, Speedskating: @travisjayner
•  Curt Tomasevicz, Bobsled: @ctomasevicz
•  Melanie Schwartz, Para Alpine Skiing

In second place, so far, "Cool Runnings," presented by Carnival Cruise Lines. Spot combines a four-man bobsled team accompanied by the theme music from "Chariots of Fire." This is the long version, at 1:00, showing more detail of the "team."

And now, back to the Games …

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Taima's Remarkable Flight!

The Seattle Seahawks mascot is an Augur Hawk who leads the team out of the entrance tunnel onto the field at home games at CenturyLink field in Seattle.  (Sorry, Seahawk is a mythical creature.)

The name “Seahawk” was chosen from 20,000 entries during a fan contest in 1975 to name the new franchise. A close relative is the Ospry,  also known as a fish hawk, common in the Pacific Northwest. The Ospry's marking are similar to the Augur Hawk, native to Africa.

His name, Taima (TAY-ma), Native American meaning "Thunder."

Trainer David Knutson and his wife Robin orchestrate Taima escorting the Seattle Seahawks onto the field.

Robin allows  fans to stroke Taima, an experience for folk who have never had contact with such a magnificent wild animal. And Taima obviously enjoys being the star!

At game time, Robin takes Taima into the team entrance tunnel. David signals Taima to fly to him with a small flashing light that he holds in his hand.

Taima flies into the chaos through towers of flame and in between the cheerleaders, landing on Davids arm. As David points out in the video, Taima's wings are not clipped; Taima is free to head for fishing grounds on nearby Elliott Bay if he so chose.

It's a truly marvelous sight to see such a majestic bird of prey soar with his four-foot wingspan, if even for a brief time.

A Concept is Born

David owns a company called Klear View Resources Inc in Spokane, Washington. Since 1996, David has used his expertise with birds of prey to make sure that aircraft at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane Washington and other bases in Washington and California, don't hit birds on takeoffs and landings.

Mr. Knutson also contracts to provide predator sweeps to vineyards and fruit growers, who often lose thousands of dollars worth of crops to birds every year.

New Seahawks owner, Paul Allen, was pondering ways to stage a game opener, with a hawk. So here is the interesting story of how Dave and Seahawks owner Paul Allen came together to provide a thrilling opening for Seattle Seahawks games.

Training Taima to deal with Chaos

Dave took Taima to Seahawks practices in Cheney to acclimate the bird to people and noise.

He took Taima to Fairchild Air Force base, where helicopters were doing takeoffs.

He took him to rodeos where his wife competed in barrel racing, to acclimate Taima to crowds and noise.

"I needed the bird to not leave the stadium," Dave said. "I didn't want to be that guy yelling, 'come back.'"

So Knutson started having Robin take Taima into their barn and have him fly through the doors, and sometimes through obstacles, to train him to do the same thing under changing conditions.

Taima Goes to Super Bowl Forty Eight

And yes, the gang  went to New Jersey! Taima flew in the cockpit, probably in charge of navigation.

And had his own hotel room..Rumor has it he watched Animal Planet before dozing off.

And finally, we learn Taima does not live in Seattle, but Spokane Washington.  Remarkably, the Knutson's and Taima drive more than 500 mile round trip to Seattle on game day, to fly Taima for the Seahawk Fans and the 12th Man.

Now that is Team dedication!

Hawk Facts:
•  Hatched: April 21, 2005
•  Hospital: World Bird Sanctuary, St. Louis
•  Species: Augur Hawk (Buteo Hawk)
•  Wingspan: Approximately 4.5 ft
•  Black head and tail separated by a creme chest with a unique creme throat with black stripe.
•  Arrived in Spokane June 13, 2005.
•  Made his debut at the Seahawks in September 2006, against the Raiders.

Thousands of fans are suffering withdrawal blahs.  What to do on Sunday?

Thank god for the Winter Olympics!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Seahawks Lombardi Trophy

What a thrill for Seahawks skipper Pete Carroll to grasp the Vince Lombardi Trophy following the humiliation of the Denver Broncos.  Franchise Owner Paul Allen is on the right.

Vince Lombardi was a teacher, a coach, and a leader. His philosophy to succeed emphasized teamwork, focus, discipline, and a will to accomplish goals. He taught his football players to use their talents to the best of their abilities and to have an inner drive to achieve their objectives. 

Lombardi’s intense training regimen, strategy and leadership transformed the [Green Bay] Packers into the team to beat during the 1960s. His legendary “Power Sweep” was a part of the powerful Lombardi style. -Eric Simonson.

The team arrived back in Seattle Monday night and were shadowed back to team headquarters in Renton Washington by hundreds of cheering fans.

I wonder how many have developed a serious case of laryngitis!

Missing from the exiting team members was Russell Wilson.  That's because he was the only guest on the David Letterman Show Monday night!

Mr. Wilson is the epitome of grace and integrity.  He related the story of his late Dad, who asked the now famous question, "Why not you Russell?"

"I remember my dad asking me one time, and it's something that has always stuck with me: 'Why not you, Russ?' You know, why not me? Why not me in the Super Bowl? So in speaking to our football team earlier in the year, I said, 'Why not us? Why can't we be there?'" 

The Seattle Seahawks have delivered an amazing season, from pre-season through the route at the Meadowlands.

I remember when the franchise opened at the Seattle Kingdom in 1976, with Jim Zorn delivering electrifying air-games, followed by Dave Kreig and Matt Hasselbeck.

I am worn out!

[Ed Note: Screen captures via my Fuji Finepix S100FS on auto mode]

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mile Post 700

What with all of the excitement of the Seattle Seahawks victory,

it was easy to overlook the passing of a Mile Post meaningful to me. The "Seahawks Ferries" was our 700th Blog posting!

These past seven years have been educational and exceptional. I hope our adventures have been exciting for you as well!

I have been to places and seen railroads that I could never have experienced without the Internet.

From the iron ore railroad of South Africa to the heavy iron in Brazil; from the exciting emergency oil delivery in the Bering Sea, to the southern tip of South Africa, and of course my personal journey with my family and Dad, which was the original content of this Blog seven years ago.

And I owe it all to Kurt Clark in Seattle.  We've never met. But I continue to follow his pilgrimage on "Wet Rails."

Back in the day, Kurt and I exchanged opinions about the web site of the "leading railroad" posting site. Turned out, that is like "looking for answers where there is no answers."

Obviously a 1%'er site.

Sensing my frustration, Kurt encouraged me to write a "Blog."

Blog?  I had no idea or which he spoke.

But thanks to Kurt, I stumbled amongst Google Blog and  have found "my voice."

Seven hundred posts filed - and I have much more to say!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Seattle Seahawks: Become Washington State Ferries!

In addition to flying the 12 Man flag all this week,  Governor Inslee has decreed that each Washington State Ferry be re-named in honor of each of the Seahawks starting offense and defense team members.

For example, our Port Townsend - Keystone (Coupeville) run, the  M/V Kennewick will be starting guard "M/V James Carpenter."

The vessel "re-naming" is symbolic only. I say that because the emails flooding comments to local TV station "Comments" threads, display a rant or two about the "expense" of re-naming State Ferries!


During Super Bowl Sunday, the vessels Seahawk name will be used on all on-board public address messages concerning arrival and departure information, including the supercilious "Please check around your seat for any personal belongings you may have brought onboard with you." announcements.

The Washington state ferry system has 22 vessels in its fleet.  Here is Sundays "starting line-up:"

• M/V Cathlamet: “M/V Malcom Smith”
• M/V Chelan: “M/V Zach Miller”
• M/V Chetzemoka: “M/V J.R. Sweezy”
• M/V Elwha: “M/V Chris Clemons”
• M/V Evergreen State: “M/V Byron Maxwell”
• M/V Hiyu: “M/V Breno Giacomini”
• M/V Hyak: “M/V Kam Chancellor”
• M/V Issaquah: “M/V Russell Okung”
• M/V Kaleetan: “M/V Doug Baldwin”
• M/V Kennewick: “M/V James Carpenter”
• M/V Kitsap: “M/V Bobby Wagner”
• M/V Kittitas: “M/V Tony McDaniel”
• M/V Klahowya: “M/V Bruce Irvin”
• M/V Puyallup: “M/V Marshawn Lynch”
• M/V Salish: “M/V Max Unger”
• M/V Sealth: “M/V Brandon Mebane”
• M/V Spokane: “M/V Golden Tate”

• M/V Tacoma: “M/V Russell Wilson”
• M/V Tillikum: “M/V Michael Robinson”
• M/V WallaWalla: “M/V Earl Thomas”
• M/V Wenatchee: “M/V Richard Sherman”
• M/V Yakima: “M/V Red Bryant”

To see a photo of the vessel of your choice, Google the vessel name, such as "M/V Tacoma."

Look for the "Washington State Ferries" or "WSF"  result.

A sneak peak preview of the Future of the State Ferry system. The Olympic Class 144-car M/V Tokitae under construction at Vigor Industrial, Seattle.

 "Tokitae" is Coastal Salish greeting "Nice day, pretty colors."

The superstructure was erected at Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders of Freeland, Whidbey Island, Washington. Shipped by barge to Vigor Industrial on Seattle's Harbor Island, on Sunday, March 3, 2013. On Tuesday, March 5, 2013, the superstructure was finally placed on top of the hull.

Video: Courtesy WSDOT.