FROM THE CAB - January 2023
By Martin Wheeler, President, Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
AS WE GO TO PRESS –
On Wednesday, January 11, it was reported by numerous
media outlets that Amtrak’s Auto Train was delayed for 20 hours in rural South
Carolina, following the derailment of a freight train and a crew change.
“A CSX freight derailment forced the Amtrak train to detour from its normal
route, and the train was delayed further in Denmark, SC, when a crew change
was required since the hours for the previous crew had expired, Amtrak said in
a statement,” reported the Associated Press.
“Customers were provided regular updates, along with meals, snack packs, and
beverages. Additional food from local businesses along the route was also
provided during the trip. The onboard staff worked with pet owners to provide
bathroom breaks,” Amtrak is reported to have said.
The Auto Train departed Monday night from Lorton, Virginia, before arriving
in Sanford, Florida, on Wednesday morning. The southbound auto train was
carrying 563 passengers and 350 vehicles, sources say.
WELCOME BACK –
A number of former members have rejoined the Carolinas
Association for Passenger Trains (CAPT), bringing our membership to 38. The
majority of CAPT members hail from North Carolina (24). Nine individuals from
South Carolina hold membership, while five others come from Florida,
Washington D.C., and Virginia.
MEMBERSHIP DRIVE LAUNCHED –
CAPT’s checkbook balance is at $2,704 as of
September 20th. Treasurer Ralph Messera of Matthews, NC, is watching his
mailbox daily for checks to increase that balance. More importantly, Ralph and
other leadership team members are seeking your support to help drive new and
improved passenger rail service throughout North and South Carolina.
All members should have received a renewal letter with an envelope addressed
to CAPT Treasurer, 401 S. Fremont, Matthews, NC 28105-5655. Online renewals
are being taken as well at
CAPT’s due’s structure is as follows: $25, individual; $15, student and retired, and
$100, corporate. Monies help your leadership work to reverse negative
passenger rail trends, including Amtrak’s failure to fully restore services and
crews, leading to service suspensions, says President Martin Wheeler.
“While the Gulf Coast situation seems to have been resolved, the Class 1’s are
still unfriendly to Amtrak operations and possible expansions,” Wheeler adds.
In a letter addressed to CAPT friends, Treasurer Ralph Messera emphasizes six
positive rail accomplishments last year in the Carolinas. They are:
- Completion of the new tracks and station platforms in Charlotte
- Connection of the Maintenance facility to the mainline in Charlotte and
the operation of the first test train.
- $25 million Grant for the construction of the new station in Lexington, NC
- The purchase of the ‘S’ line in NC in coordination with Virginia’s purchase
of the line from Petersburg to the NC border.
- Anticipation of the 4th Piedmont Service in the spring, which along with
the Carolinian will give us 5 trains per day between Charlotte and Raleigh.
- Continued interest in train service in SC, particularly the Charlotte to
CAPT SEEKS NEW SECRETARY –
Phil Astwood, longtime CAPT board Secretary, is
moving on to new endeavors, opening up a vital board position. Board President
Martin Wheeler seeks to fill this position and other director slots at the January
21st board meeting in Columbia, SC.
The Richland County Library (1431 Assembly
St.) is the meeting location. The three-hour meeting starts at 1 p.m. and will be
held in Room 200 (Room A). Street parking is available; meters are free on
Want fellowship and excellent cuisine before the meeting? Members will
gather at 11:30 a.m. at the California Dreaming Restaurant (401 S. Main St.).
This restaurant once was the old Union Station, serving Southern Railroad and
the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in Columbia.
All CAPT members are invited to attend the January 21st meeting. Nine passenger
rail issues are to be discussed, including:
- R2R Developments (Raleigh-Richmond)
- Western NC Rail Committee
- Infrastructure funding for Western and Eastern NC service extensions.
- Florence-Myrtle Beach rail passenger efforts
- South Carolina resolution drive in support of expanded rail passenger
- Columbia – Charlotte passenger rail initiative
- Charlotte Area Transit update
- State Advisory Committee reports on monitoring of Rail to Train Corridors
- Passenger rail news from nearby states and across the nation.
NEW PASSENGER RAIL TRACKS IN ORLANDO –
Passenger rail may someday
connect Orlando International Airport and the Orange County Convention Center.
As widely reported, this 11-mile stretch would be called the Sunshine Corridor.
Universal Orlando Resort made application with Orange County, Florida, to form a
community development district (CDD). Shingle Creek Transit Utility
Development District would be the CDD and would help finance the corridor’s
MERIDIAN, MS, TO HOST 2023 FALL RPA MEETING – While Raleigh/Durham was
under consideration as a host site for the Rail Passengers Association Fall 2023
meeting, Rail Passenger Association members selected Meridian, MS.
Mississippi RPA Council Representative Jerome Trahan said this about the
"Meridian, Mississippi is a town built by the railroads. Our cultural lineage is
cemented as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, (The Singing Brakeman)
recognized as the father of American Music. Our transportation roots run still
deeper as the hometown of former FRA Administrator, Gill Carmichael and
Amtrak Board of Directors chair, John Robert Smith. Meridian’s Union Station
was the first multimodal station built with public/private funds in the US and is
a model for what an emphasis on transportation can do for a community.
“Since its opening in 1997 the station renovation was the catalyst for the rebirth
of what is now a thriving downtown. The MSU Riley Center (a downtown jewel)
features the Grand Opera House of Mississippi, built in 1891 and positioned as
the last stop on Historic Crescent, Southerner, and Pelican line for theater and
musical performances before those troupes terminated in New Orleans. With the
station renovation this small MS town has the infrastructure for the eventuality of
higher speed passenger travel and extensions of Amtrak service to the west.
“Just steps from Union Station Meridian is also the home of The Max, the
Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience. A $60M arts showcase that
celebrates the achievements of Mississippians in the arts that have changed the
None of this would have been possible without the railroad and makes Meridian
the perfect destination to see the benefits of transportation to this county. A new
historic downtown hotel (The Three-foot Hotel) also adds to what would be an
amazing location for this event."
Joining Raleigh/Durham and Meridian on the “top five” list for the Fall 2023 RPA
meeting were Providence, RI; Buffalo, NY, and San Antonio, TX.