• PAR wants to operate ex-MMA/BAR trackage

  • Guilford Rail System changed its name to Pan Am Railways in 2006. Discussion relating to the current operations of the Boston & Maine, the Maine Central, and the Springfield Terminal railroads (as well as the Delaware & Hudson while it was under Guilford control until 1988). Official site can be found here: PANAMRAILWAYS.COM.
Guilford Rail System changed its name to Pan Am Railways in 2006. Discussion relating to the current operations of the Boston & Maine, the Maine Central, and the Springfield Terminal railroads (as well as the Delaware & Hudson while it was under Guilford control until 1988). Official site can be found here: PANAMRAILWAYS.COM.

Moderator: MEC407

  by MEC407
 
Just an "FYI" for those of you who don't regularly visit the MMA forum: apparently PAR has submitted a proposal to operate the ex-BAR trackage that MMA is selling to the state of Maine.

For more info: http://railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=77644
  by jaymac
 
Could explain the niceness assault during the Brunswick Extension ceremonies this past year...
  by KSmitty
 
Personally, I'm hoping PAR wins the contract.

If I read the RFP.pdf file correctly, the operator will be responsible to keep all track in its current FRA track class and to maintain all other aspects to current levels. Plus the monthly reports to MDOT would keep PAR honest & operating within the contract agreements. It could be the most efficient part of their operation (outside of PAS) and would bring Maine traffic that has long gone out of the US to Montreal for forwarding back into Maine.

I can see why PAR wants this contract, and why NBSR/EMRY is right there too. It is logical that the operator of these lines will have first dibs at the rest of the MMA system when it falls. If PAR got this, the wishes of many former BAR presidents would be realized, a unified New England rail system. One railroad in Northern ME would send more traffic out through Maine, and less to Montreal on the old CP, maybe even eliminating the CP line, saving money and creating jobs in Maine. Thats something I'd love to see!
  by jaymac
 
Will Northampton Fire provide interstate mutual aid for the inevitable low H2O situations?
  by ShortlinesUSA
 
Kevin, with all due respect, you've got to be kidding. When has the "threat" of having to make a report to a government agency made GRS/PAR do anything? Operating these lines will not bring PAR anything it does not already have. If they want a feed from Canada, they are already partnering with the NBSR on a runthrough from St. John via Mattawamkeag. All operating the lines the state has purchased will bring is a disconnected set of branchlines. Do you honestly think the PAR we all know and love is willing to put much into this, especially if the motivation is waiting on the MMA to die?

The traffic operating on these lines is primarily east-west from Quebec to New Brunswick. There is very little to feed the existing PAR system. What does feed the system is already moving in partnership between the NBSR and PAR. The only railroad that really stands to gain anything out of operating these lines is the NBSR/EMRY. Irving owns these railroads. along wtih a large amount of land and timber interests in northern Maine. In short, they are the customer. Who do you think will serve the customer better, EMRY or PAR?

I'm honestly not taking you on personally here, but rather would be very interested in hearing how having PAR as the operator could in any way bring something positive for the shippers that fought so hard for these lines not to be abandoned. I think you see a strong case for the NBSR/EMRY, as you mention. I'm just curious how funneling all this traffic south via PAR would somehow be a good thing, when based on overall traffic patterns, we're probably looking at the strongest business case for the lines in question to compete against CN with a CP/NBSR routing with some local traffic thrown in to pay the bills.

KSmitty wrote:Personally, I'm hoping PAR wins the contract.

If I read the RFP.pdf file correctly, the operator will be responsible to keep all track in its current FRA track class and to maintain all other aspects to current levels. Plus the monthly reports to MDOT would keep PAR honest & operating within the contract agreements. It could be the most efficient part of their operation (outside of PAS) and would bring Maine traffic that has long gone out of the US to Montreal for forwarding back into Maine.

I can see why PAR wants this contract, and why NBSR/EMRY is right there too. It is logical that the operator of these lines will have first dibs at the rest of the MMA system when it falls. If PAR got this, the wishes of many former BAR presidents would be realized, a unified New England rail system. One railroad in Northern ME would send more traffic out through Maine, and less to Montreal on the old CP, maybe even eliminating the CP line, saving money and creating jobs in Maine. Thats something I'd love to see!
  by KSmitty
 
ShortlinesUSA wrote:(1.) ...When has the "threat" of having to make a report to a government agency made GRS/PAR do anything...

(2.)Operating these lines will not bring PAR anything it does not already have. If they want a feed from Canada, they are already partnering with the NBSR on a runthrough from St. John via Mattawamkeag. All operating the lines the state has purchased will bring is a disconnected set of branchlines. Do you honestly think the PAR we all know and love is willing to put much into this, especially if the motivation is waiting on the MMA to die?

The traffic operating on these lines is primarily east-west from Quebec to New Brunswick. There is very little to feed the existing PAR system. What does feed the system is already moving in partnership between the NBSR and PAR. The only railroad that really stands to gain anything out of operating these lines is the NBSR/EMRY.

(3.)I think you see a strong case for the NBSR/EMRY, as you mention. I'm just curious how funneling all this traffic south via PAR would somehow be a good thing, when based on overall traffic patterns, we're probably looking at the strongest business case for the lines in question to compete against CN with a CP/NBSR routing with some local traffic thrown in to pay the bills.
1) Government money, and ownership for that matter, does funny things most obvious in this case would be that failure, especially repeat offenses, could result in the termination of the operating contract and loss of business. I think that is motivation enough to "make PAR do something." Lets face it, the management has proven for 30 years that if nothing else they know how to successfully run a business and turn profit for themselves, and losing a contract and associated carloadings because your monthly report is bad, is bad business.

2) I was not saying PAR wants a feed from Canada, rather they would route the current traffic on the MMA lines through Maine. Last time I checked it has been BAR/Iron Road/MMA policy since the early 70's to make the CP line the primary route for "County Traffic" to reach destination. (If I remember right this stems from some dispute where E. Spencer Miller & the opposing BAR management had a difference of opinions on who was going to run/control the MEC. When Miller won, BAR walked away, fell into CP's court.) Anyway, with PAR in control of the branch lines, traffic currently going from northern ME to Brownville and on to Sherbrooke, would suddenly find itself getting classified @ either Waterville or Rigby. No new traffic from Canada would follow, but traffic that currently crosses the border twice would now skip all the paperwork and customs snafu's and travel directly to US destination. As it should! The traffic on the state owned lines better not be moving east-west, 90% of the trackage is north-south...This isn't the CP line I'm talking about, its the local originated traffic on the State of Maine owned lines.

3) MMA tried to compete east-west with CN, simple fact is that the customs/paperwork involved with crossing the border, not once, but twice made that damn near impossible. CN is the only true transcontinental system in NA. It is a gigantic machine that has been finely tuned to perform consistently better than the rest of the class 1 railroads. It has great reach and the resources to maintain its line around Maine to the north. Time wise a shortline/regional is never going to have the coffers to rebuild and maintain the old CP line to standards necessary to compete with CN, CP isn't going pay for it, and they aren't going to offer run thru power agreements to compete, they gave the line up in the 90's and haven't looked back. With interchange and customs delays, competition to CN would be non-existant, and even if it was there, that is well south of the area that a new operator is going to serve, so its a mute point.

Funneling traffic south cuts out a border crossing, and Canada bound traffic can always be sent north through ME to the old BAR/CN interchange on the international bridge. It sends traffic south and it makes the MM&A irrelevant to the new operator. It makes the old CP line irrelevant to the new operator, and ultimately makes the MM&A irrelevant. As I said before when MM&A falls, the operator becomes the most likely successor and here is where PAR fits most nicely. The additional online mills and the Searsport complex add business, with a friendly connection @ NMJ, the old CP line, miles and miles of track through nothingness become surplus and the old BAR and PAR fuse into a system dreamed about by various railroad presidents since the early 60's. Playing for the end game, a smart business decision.

And don't forget this wouldn't be the first time that a company has taken on new branch lines separated from their system by miles of trackage rights. I think the cluster of Connecticut branches worked out okiedokie for the B&M...And think of the economic benefits of a combined system with no CP line. All traffic originated in Maine and currently split between 2 RofW's would travel 1, cutting maintenance cost in half. Their would be no associated customs hangups and paper work to deal with, and no messy interchange process @ NMJ. All the paper money could be used to support a more modest, yet more productive set of branches, and jobs that currently work Canadian rail would stay in this country & state.

Simple fact is, as I see it, operation control of the lines going to PAR would be good for PAR, bad for MM&A and have almost no immediate effect on the NBSR. Long term, it could limit NBSR to one western interchange partner, but Irving has deep pockets, something tells me that they can afford to deal with that, as I pay $3.40 for a gallon of gas.

Edited* to fix typos.
Last edited by KSmitty on Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by newpylong
 
God help Maine if PAR becomes the operator. Unless they finally pull out of NH and MA and stick strictly to the Mills.

The NBSR is going to get it anyway.
  by KSmitty
 
newpylong wrote:God help Maine if PAR becomes the operator. Unless they finally pull out of NH and MA and stick strictly to the Mills.
Newpylong,
If I may ask, why would pulling out of NH & MA have any influence on PAR's ability to be an effective operator of the state owned lines?

If anything, I see the loss of revenue from leaving the west end as a bad business move. It would cost thousands in revenue and would severely impact the ability of Pan Am to do any regular maintenance. The loss of Bow coal revenue itself would be bad. That is a stable, reliable source of income, and requires little return investment from Pan Am, having just to fuel the NS locomotives that bring it in and a use couple crews to move the train...
  by ShortlinesUSA
 
KSmitty wrote:And don't forget this wouldn't be the first time that a company has taken on new branch lines separated from their system by miles of trackage rights. I think the cluster of Connecticut branches worked out okiedokie for the B&M...And think of the economic benefits of a combined system with no CP line. All traffic originated in Maine and currently split between 2 RofW's would travel 1, cutting maintenance cost in half. Their would be no associated customs hangups and paper work to deal with, and no messy interchange process @ NMJ. All the paper money could be used to support a more modest, yet more productive set of branches, and jobs that currently work Canadian rail would stay in this country & state.

Simple fact is, as I see it, operation control of the lines going to PAR would be good for PAR, bad for MM&A and have almost no immediate effect on the NBSR. Long term, it could limit NBSR to one western interchange partner, but Irving has deep pockets, something tells me that they can afford to deal with that, as I pay $3.40 for a gallon of gas.
That's just what I'm getting at when I say this brings PAR nothing. There are no trackage rights on which they can connect to their system. If they had rights to NMJ, this would make a LOT more sense. They are completely at the mercy of MMA for their interchange, unless they establish a relation with CN at the north end, and that's a lot of dead miles to haul traffic that is originating from Portage south. Granted, they would also have interchange with the EMRY/NBSR at Brownsville Jct, but again, that only brings them something they already have.

I can't see how this would be bad for the MMA if they still wind up with the interchange, unless you're inferring that PAR's poor service will have MMA's customers looking for other modes of transportation. And this WILL affect Irving, putting a large amount of their product at the whims of a company that has repeatedly shown that service is not necessarily its top priority. That is nothing deep pockets can solve, nor should it have to be. The only way deep pockets could solve this would be for Irving to truck their product somewhere to load on another railroad or just straight to their mills. And this is somehow good for Maine railroading?

I will definitely agree with you that all of this would make much more sense were PAR wound up with the entire MMA system or had trackage rights to NMJ, but until that happens, which could be years into the future or never, this is simply an island operation with marginal numbers that will be, and this is strictly my opinion, minimally operated at best by PAR.
  by KSmitty
 
ShortlinesUSA wrote:(1.) That's just what I'm getting at when I say this brings PAR nothing. There are no trackage rights on which they can connect to their system. If they had rights to NMJ, this would make a LOT more sense. They are completely at the mercy of MMA for their interchange, unless they establish a relation with CN at the north end, and that's a lot of dead miles to haul traffic that is originating from Portage south. Granted, they would also have interchange with the EMRY/NBSR at Brownsville Jct, but again, that only brings them something they already have.

(2.) I can't see how this would be bad for the MMA if they still wind up with the interchange, unless you're inferring that PAR's poor service will have MMA's customers looking for other modes of transportation. And this WILL affect Irving, putting a large amount of their product at the whims of a company that has repeatedly shown that service is not necessarily its top priority. That is nothing deep pockets can solve, nor should it have to be. The only way deep pockets could solve this would be for Irving to truck their product somewhere to load on another railroad or just straight to their mills. And this is somehow good for Maine railroading?

(3.) I will definitely agree with you that all of this would make much more sense were PAR wound up with the entire MMA system or had trackage rights to NMJ, but until that happens, which could be years into the future or never, this is simply an island operation with marginal numbers that will be, and this is strictly my opinion, minimally operated at best by PAR.
1) PAR would have trackage rights to Brownville for interchange with EMRY/NBSR. The NBSR interchange would move cars from Brownville to Mattawamkeag for interchange back to PAR. MMA would have nothing to do with PAR traffic generated on the state owned lines. They could completely avoid the MM&A, and the NBSR is a solid railroad that would handle PAR "island hopping" traffic in a timely and efficient manner. So technically there is no trackage rights from PAR to the state owned lines but their are rights to the NBSR and a solid railroad that would handle traffic effectively. And maybe even with some work, grant PAR trackage rights to "Keag."

2) Bad for MMA, really??? MMA would lose all traffic generated on the state owned lines if PAR were to become operator. PAR could easily route all traffic NBSR/CN. Their would be no through traffic for MMA on the CP line from the state owned lines. MMA would find itself running miles of track on the old CP line to connect the southern portion of the BAR system with the cluster of lines in Quebec and Vermont, with no traffic from northern ME to support this section.
And how will PAR's service on the state owned lines effect in any way Montreal Maine & Atlantic customers? From what I understand, MMA may be the only railroad in New England to offer poorer service than PAR. No shipper that withstood MMA service is going to be turned off by PAR if they offer service of any kind. Customers on MMA track will still be subject to MMA service, and may seek other modes of transportation. Customers on the state owned lines are no longer MMA customers they would be subject to PAR service and may seek other modes of transportation. But their is no correlation between PAR service and MMA customer satisfaction!

3) The service on the state owned lines, will be subject to state approved operating plans, as will maintenance and other associated operations. I imagine, though I don't see a contract in explicit details, that the State of Maine is not going to sit around watching a contract operator piss away a multi-million dollar investment driving customers to truck. I think the state will be smart enough to include a "contract compliance clause" that keeps the operator honest and producing decent service. The selected operator better not maintain rights (be it PAR or any other) if the service is poor. I as a Maine taxpayer, would not be happy. I'm willing to bet all the people who voted against the transportation referendum won't be happy...Politicians know that you don't stay in office with a grumpy constituency and will be smart enough to well word a contract.
And as I said before, it is my opinion that PAR is playing for the end game. Take a look at the MMA forum as far back as 2009 people were talking about the end of the MMA, and most here are industry outsiders. Even common people can see not much is going MMA's way. I think this is round 1 of the abandonments and I think you'll find that I'm not the only one.

Edit* to fix typos again...
  by ShortlinesUSA
 
I definitely don't dispute things are not going MMA's way. They haven't since Day 1, when the mill at Millinocket closed as they were starting service. The routing of BJct to Mattawamkeag then back down to NMJ seems very inefficient to me, but were PAR appointed as operator, may well happen to avoid the MMA if it comes down to it. I guess my bottom line is that things won't get any better with PAR running these lines than MMA. And this seems to be what's been the crux of the matter for the shippers, and what was hoped to be solved with the state buying the lines.
  by newpylong
 
KSmitty wrote:
newpylong wrote:God help Maine if PAR becomes the operator. Unless they finally pull out of NH and MA and stick strictly to the Mills.
Newpylong,
If I may ask, why would pulling out of NH & MA have any influence on PAR's ability to be an effective operator of the state owned lines?

If anything, I see the loss of revenue from leaving the west end as a bad business move. It would cost thousands in revenue and would severely impact the ability of Pan Am to do any regular maintenance. The loss of Bow coal revenue itself would be bad. That is a stable, reliable source of income, and requires little return investment from Pan Am, having just to fuel the NS locomotives that bring it in and a use couple crews to move the train...
How many examples do you want?

Clearly they are incapable of handling what trackage they now have. I have a lot of contacts in Billerica, and I used to work for this railroad, I don't just make this stuff up. Currently the mills ship (send/receive) 30% of their product by rail. They would like to move this up to 60% or even higher but PAR is incapable of servicing them to these levels right now.

They have been crew short, power short, and physical plant short for going on 20 years. They have had 3 Conductors classes in 2010 to the present and have more planned. This goes to show you how short they really were/are on crews. Tons of people are retiring, crews on the West End leave for other railroads, and they they were short anyway. They are having a lot of power problems even with all the used 6 packs on the property.

Do you know how long some branches were snowed under from the last storm? Two weeks.... they don't have the manpower or equipment left to keep things clear. Imagine being a shipper on one of those lines?

Because they are so short on mapower, crews are stolen to do other things and their trains are cancelled or run days later. They instated LAEV, a train that was supposed to improve service levels to the scrap dealer in Everett. This crew half the time is stolen for something else, so the cars don't move.

Recently there have been some changes in Billerica, namely to those who make decisions on manpower - hopefully some good will become of it.

At this point I would not want to see them gain more trackage until they have proved themselves to handle what they have now properly.
  by KSmitty
 
Thanks for the examples. I know you are/were an insider, thats why I asked.

The only problem I have with your examples is that a crew/equipment shortage is system wide. While cutting back on track miles would alleviate the equipment shortage, it would not help the manpower shortage. But I see your point anyway...

I guess this is where I don't see eye to eye with you and Mike. Personally, if they want to try, let them, yes they have their issues, but the state shouldn't put up with crap. If they fail they fail but in the meantime let 'em try worst that could happen is failure.

Also, your examples point to something key, something I hope I'm really seeing (I'm trying to think positively here) and thats a change in the corporate atmosphere at PAR. I know its been batted around here before, but your examples all help to back it up.
newpylong wrote:Currently the mills ship (send/receive) 30% of their product by rail. They would like to move this up to 60% or even higher but PAR is incapable of servicing them to these levels right now.
To me, I see new business ready, willing, waiting...
newpylong wrote:They have had 3 Conductors classes in 2010 to the present and have more planned. This goes to show you how short they really were/are on crews...They are having a lot of power problems even with all the used 6 packs on the property.
Here I see, addition power and crews added in an effort to combat a persistent issue.
newpylong wrote:They instated LAEV, a train that was supposed to improve service levels to the scrap dealer in Everett. This crew half the time is stolen for something else, so the cars don't move.
Here I see a train dedicated to a single shipper, an effort to improve customer satisfaction.
newpylong wrote:Recently there have been some changes in Billerica, namely to those who make decisions on manpower - hopefully some good will become of it.
And lastly I see recognition, from the very top levels that something is in fact broken, and that an effort is being made to fix it. Call me crazy, I'm sure some already have, but I really think something is changing. I also believe that the operator of the state owned lines is ultimately going to at least make a play for, if not get control of all of the former Bangor & Aroostook. PAR is the logical fit, fundamentally, logistically, economically. To back this up I point to the history books where most BAR presidents from the early 60's to Iron Roads have seen the advantages of a combined system, but have never been able to put it togather. PAR may finally have the chance, the Mellon family certainly has the means...
  by BigLou80
 
newpylong wrote:
Clearly they are incapable of handling what trackage they now have. I have a lot of contacts in Billerica, and I used to work for this railroad, I don't just make this stuff up. Currently the mills ship (send/receive) 30% of their product by rail. They would like to move this up to 60% or even higher but PAR is incapable of servicing them to these levels right now.

They have been crew short, power short, and physical plant short for going on 20 years. They have had 3 Conductors classes in 2010 to the present and have more planned. This goes to show you how short they really were/are on crews. Tons of people are retiring, crews on the West End leave for other railroads, and they they were short anyway. They are having a lot of power problems even with all the used 6 packs on the property.

Do you know how long some branches were snowed under from the last storm? Two weeks.... they don't have the manpower or equipment left to keep things clear. Imagine being a shipper on one of those lines?

Because they are so short on mapower, crews are stolen to do other things and their trains are cancelled or run days later. They instated LAEV, a train that was supposed to improve service levels to the scrap dealer in Everett. This crew half the time is stolen for something else, so the cars don't move.

Recently there have been some changes in Billerica, namely to those who make decisions on manpower - hopefully some good will become of it.

At this point I would not want to see them gain more trackage until they have proved themselves to handle what they have now properly.
My outsider opinions FWIW.

I think we are seeing a big shift in strategy at ST/PAR/G/Mellon inc. When the MEC and B&M were purchased the best way to make money was by selling off property. Especially if you consider how "bloated" with excess lines the rail roads were along with having to deal with an unfavorable labor union and competition from trucking. I think their only interest in running a rail road came from the legal obligations to do so because that was not where the money was. They spent the absolute minimum to keep the railroad functioning if you could even call it that.

( this next part is pure conjecture feel free to point out where I am wrong) Fast forward 20-25 years all of the easy money property is gone and they are left with a rail road that is to big with to many liabilites for the short line companies like pinsley, railtex et al to buy and to big of a system for a class one to buy under anti trust laws PAS is the closet we are going to see to that. Round about 2008 we started to see a steady climb in the price of diesel, a raised environmental awareness by the general public along with the realization that highway systems is falling apart and we don't have the money to fix it. THE POINT. All of this adds up to a favorable economic climate long term to make money railroading again.

( not so much conjecture this time)
Pan Am is NOT run by stupid people as un popular as their decisions may be im sure they make them money, the MBTA Bilrica deal was pure genius if you ask me. They see the writing on the wall and are actualy interested in shipping freight ( and passangers) again 20 new to them locomotives and numerous classes for conductors and engineers in one year are a dam good start if you ask me. It takes some time to ramp up capacity in any industry, you don't just wake up one morning and double your capacity. To make the challenge even harder for PAR there are probably hundreds of managers at all levels who with either need to get or board with the new plan or be replaced. Again these things don't happen over night in any industry

This "arm chair railroader" ( to quote buddsiverliner12345) has to agree with Kevin Smith that this is a long term play by PAR who incidently has deep pockets, while perhaps not as deep as Irving something tells me if Tim Mellon needs to pony up a million dollars for some more used 6 pack locomotives he can do it but maybe not he is values his privacy and very few people probably know how much money he has but I'm going to go with my original hypothosys.
  by roberttosh
 
The traffic on these lines does not lend itself to being long hauled over the former MEC/BM as it is mostly local or forwarded traffic to the NBSR, such as logs, chips, oil, stone, etc. The lumber traffic on these lines will never be what it was and that leaves little else, maybe some fertilizer and cooking oil. The bread and butter business that you refered to as being routed through Canada and around PAR and its predecessors is/was the mill traffic to and from Millinocket and Madawaska (i.e. clay and chemicals inbound and paper outbound) and what's left of this traffic is not in the mix as those facilities will still be served by MMA & CN. PAR's interest makes VERY little sense to me and judging from past experience, I would bet almost anything that the service would go down the tubes rather quickly.....