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RailPAC-NARP 2014 Annual Steel Wheels Conference, Los Angeles

--My transportation to the Conference - Pacific Surfliner from Fullerton to Los Angeles.

RailPAC - NARP 2014
(Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada and National Association of Railroad Passengers)
Annual Steel Wheels Conference
Saturday February 1, 2014
Los Angeles Metro Board Room at Union Station, Los Angeles
9:30 am - 3:30 pm

Photos and Text by Carl Morrison (; Power Point Slides by Speakers; Produced by

Original Promo for this conference:

(Click any image in this report to see it larger with a black background, making it easier to view or read.  Click the BACK button in your browser to return to this report.)

In this report you will learn (click the blue link at the end of each question to find the answer):

   Who said of Rail Travel, "When you are on the ground, you see the beauty of California." La Bonge

    What would the US map look like with no Amtrak Long Distance Trains? Murphy

    Where will the new tracks for the run through go at Los Angeles Union Station?  Sepulveda

    What are the short- and long-term service goals of LOSSAN between SLO and San Diego?  LOSSAN

    Why is the California High Speed Rail project starting in the Central Valley?  Rail Modernization

    How many of the five busiest intercity rail corridors in the US are in California?  Caltrans

    What do the new locomotives and the new bi-level cars look like inside and out? Caltrans

    What company can rebuild/repair 15 rail vehicles at a time in California of these manufacturers - Budd/Vickers,  Kinki Sharyo,  Kawasaki,  Morrison-Knudsen, ABB? Alstrom

    What current energy technology can provide +12.8% average speed and -46.5% energy consumption than current Passenger Trains in California?  Energy Conversions

    How many high speed trains were running during the January 11, 2011, Japanese earthquake?  How many derailed? Roger Rudick

    When is the 2014 California Passenger Rail SummitSWRail


Assigned to report on the Conference, I soon realized what I had missed by not attending this conference for 4 years...Starbucks and cookies as an opener.


With the Conference always held at a rail-friendly location, it was only a few steps from the East Portal of Union Station in Los Angeles to the Metro Board Room for the meeting.  Many of us who attended had arrived on an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, as I had (top photo), or on Metro subway/light rail.


Downtown view from the Metro building, across the Los Angles Union Station's platform roofs to downtown.


Forms were available to join this organization and you will see from the presenters that RailPAC is on the cutting edge of rail advocacy.  Membership Form


The mission of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) is to work for a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want.

NARP is the largest national membership advocacy organization for train and rail transit passengers. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the United States. Our work is supported by around 20,000 individual members.  Membership Form

Los Angeles Metro Building at Union Station


The large graphics on the Boardroom level are classic (above and below).


Santa Fe through the orange groves and the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal which will soon celebrate it's 75th anniversary.


A new video ViewSonic is on the Boardroom level with a slide show of Metro-related images.  I like the top view of Union Station, perhaps from near Olvera St.


This poster was in the lobby.  Don't know if it was for the Metro employees or our conference.


Robert Manning, before the conference opened, introduced me to Mark Murphy of Amtrak who was the keynote speaker.

Conference Speakers


Welcome - Tom LaBonge, Los Angeles City Council, Paul Dyson, RailPAC, Matt Melzer, NARP


Paul Dyson welcomed the guests and thanked them for attending on such short notice - perhaps the reason for the lighter attendance than last year.



Tom LaBonge, Los Angeles City Council, welcomed the guests and gave Paul and Mat Melzer, NARP, a certificate.

Councilman LaBonge mentioned the 75th anniversary of Union Station which is coming up in May. 

Union Station was partially designed by John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson (the Parkinsons) who had also designed Los Angeles City Hall and other landmark Los Angeles buildings. They were assisted by a group of supporting architects, including Jan van der Linden. The structure combines Dutch Colonial Revival architecture (the suggestion of the Dutch-born Jan von der Linden), Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne style, with architectural details such as eight-pointed stars.

Enclosed garden patios are on either side of the waiting room, and passengers exiting the trains were originally directed through the southern garden. The lower part of the interior walls is covered in travertine marble, and the upper part is covered with an early form of acoustical tile. The floor in the large rooms is terra cotta tile with a central strip of inlaid marble (including travertine, somewhat unusual in floors since it is soft).

Attached to the main building to the south is the station restaurant (the last of the "Harvey House" restaurants to be constructed as a part of a passenger terminal) designed by southwestern architect Mary Colter. Although now usually padlocked and stripped of many interior furnishings, the topology of its rounded central counter, streamlined booths, and inlaid floor patterns remain. 

Mr. La Bonge said of Rail Travel, "When you are on the ground, you see the beauty of California," in reference to the California High Speed Rail Project.  He suggested running the project right up Interstate 5, we already own the land and would not anger the farmers.  Then, run baby bullets into adjoining areas.






Paul's Certificate (Matt's said "National Association of Railroad Passengers".)


Keynote Speaker:  Mark Murphy, General Manager, Long Distance Services


Mr. Murphy brought two Amtrak managers - Joy Smith, Business Liaison Director of Service Excellence, Long Distance Services


and Mike Dwyer, Route Director, Coast Starlight and Southwest Chief.

Unfortunately, Joy and Mike were not given an opportunity to speak.  I chased down Mike during the beginning of the next speaker's presentation, and asked him about the current situation with the Southwest Chief reroute possibly from Albuquerque through Wichita and back to the current route in Newton, Kansas.  Mr. Dwyer says that Colorado and Kansas are onboard to provide the money for improvements to keep the SWChief on the current route.  However, the New Mexico governor is against using money to improve their portion of the route (north of Albuquerque and Lamy).  She has even given back the federal money.  Kirk Schneider, a friend and conference attendee, says the state is bankrupt and even their Rail Runner might have to be shut down.  Other considerations are routing the SWChief through Pueblo and/or Wichita, Kansas.  There seems to be no deadline for the reroute.



Matt Melzer was the able computer operator for Mr. Murphy.

You can see how far the audience was from the screen, I was sitting in the front row with a telephoto lens.  Mr. Murphy's slides were readable, but, as you will see, many slides, especially with maps, were entirely unreadable by the attendees.  Some presenters even apologized by saying, "You can't see this, but..."  (What a way to make a professional presentation.)


Hmm, do you like the photo on this initial slide?  I believe it to be inside the repair shops in Beech Grove, Indiana.  Hope he used a different slide photo if he makes this presentation to other rail passengers.


Mr. Murphy's slides about Amtrak Long Distance Trains were in color, but I had been taking people photos at 3200 ISO to keep from using a flash and needed to change to 800 to avoid red, blue, and green sections of the slides.  If I did have the RGB sections in my slides, I simply turned them to monochrome for this report.


Mr. Murphy mentioned that two new Talgo train sets are online now.  He also mentioned that new single-level long distance cars will go online in 2015-2016.  (This was probably not something to tout to westerners since single-level cars means they will go in service somewhere east of Chicago.  This just adds fuel to the fire that Amtrak management things the center of the universe is the Northeast Corridor and that the west is a step-child.



This is WAY too much information for a slide.  Mr. Murphy could not even read it from his position 1/2 the distance from the screen to the audience as the attendees.  In fact, you will be able to read this slide than the attendees.


NEC = North East Corridor    LD = Long Distance



Note the "Three geographical regions," above, and the cities within.


The photos on the slide above should have been separated for better understanding.



Think about it, what politicians advocate eliminating Amtrak.  Notice how many states' populations that would affect.


I think the bottom line is important in slide No. 12, above.



F & B?  (Food and Beverage)


Questions followed and the LOSSAN Group said that there are two gaps in California Serviced - San Luis Obispo to San Jose and Bakersfield to Los Angeles.

A question about Parlour Cars from Robert Manning got this answer:  The Parlour Cars are here to stay, but they are out of the consist about 20% of the time for leaky windows or irreplaceable parts.  They have the problem whether to take them all out at once and repair them or one at a time.  Locals feel that one at a time is better and while one is out, use a cafe car.

This ends the Amtrak presentation.
  Are you inspired? 

Regional Rail - Don Sepulveda - LACMTA Executive Officer


Don Sepulveda


This might be the most exciting slide of the afternoon - the run-through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station.  This is something RailPAC has advocated for years.  Mr. Sepulveda said it takes 15 to 20 minutes to change from a train arriving and the same train leaving as it now stands with a stub in station.  The run through would greatly enhance dwell time on every train.


Mr. Sepulveda said that safety is a big issue and this slide explains what is being done about it.


These slides address double tracking.  After these projects, there will be double track between Ventura and Los Angeles Counties (Not Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties).





LOSSAN in Transition


Hmmm, gave this same presentation November 2, 2013.  Nothing new?  So attending TRAC means we've heard all this.  At least change the date to the current meeting so the folks do not walk out on your section of the program.  I stayed since I did not go to TRAC this year.



Jacki Bacharach, Moderator, LOSSAN past Vice Chair


Jennifer Bergener, OCTA managing agency


Dave Golonski, LOSSAN Vice Chair

Dave made an important point - The length of a Rail Plan is longer than the term of supporting board members.  I think Fullerton is well aware of this.  Since the Fullerton Railway Plaza received support, those members have been replaced with less enthusiastic rail supports and who knows what the current plan is nowadays. 


Fred Strong, LOSSAN Chair

Fred commented on a portion of their slides, fielded questions after their presentation, and provided about 100 printed "California Passenger Rail Program Guiding Principles" which I have copied below.







Has not "'through' commuter trains between L.A. and San Diego" been tried and deemed unsuccessful? 



Before increased number of trains can be accomplished, Paul Dyson pointed out that additional track (double or triple) must be added.  You cannot put more trains on tracks that are already congested.



I think this is a very meaningful and informative slide - what is planned.





If you have questions or comments about LOSSAN, please direct them to the folks above via their e-mail addresses.

Some attendees have thought provoking questions after each presentation.





Perhaps the youngest rail advocate at the conference (right).



Noel T. Braymer taking some official photos.

High Speed Rail - Michelle Boehm, CHSRA


Michelle looks more like a modern-day advocate of High Speed Rail than most of the RailPAC membership in attendance.  RailPAC has been criticized for not appealing to younger members, and California High Speed Rail has found a spokesperson who would appeal to that younger set as well.  Now RailPAC just has to get younger rail advocates to meetings to hear her.  Perhaps RailPAC members, after her presentation, had a positive impression of her breadth of knowledge and good delivery style than they might have had at first impression.  Roger Rudick had a criticism saying that she should take 'bus bridge' out of her vocabulary about High Speed Rail.  Roger suggested showing a slide, as he did, of a traditional locomotive pulling a French high speed train to an off-route destination and saying that this is how HSR will deliver riders to their final destination.


Thank you Michelle for spending the time to put the current date and group on your title slide.




California's High Speed Rail project has a new and better name:  California Rail Modernization Plan






What is the photo and how does it relate?  (Why is the photo from behind other photographers?  iPhone photo?  Use professional photographers.)


Even though the map is unreadable, the text tells the story.



I took a closer photo of the earlier map so you could see what names were on the map.




The photo is of the Tehachapi loop, which Michelle mentioned, and relates to bullet point 1.





To question or comment to Michelle, use her e-mail address above.

The State of the State, Rail - Bruce Roberts, Acting Chief, Division of Rail




Bruce's presentation had a photo background that made the text harder to read for the audience.  The message was important to us, however.


I have greatly cropped this slide, but the city names are still unreadable.


Sorry I missed the Pacific Surfliner map, but the state operating support dollars are listed below.




Bruce showed this historic slide to show the Colton Crossing and how it has been improved in the next 2 slides.



A horizontal photo with trains on both tracks would have been more meaningful.


STIP and RTIP mean what?


Do you understand this slide?


Good, readable information.





Industry:  Roy Van Winsbergh, Alstrom


RailPAC:  Why did the speakers have to turn their backs to the audience to look at the large screen to check the sequence of their slides when their slides were coming from a portable computer with a handhold remote? (Answer:  The laptop should have been on the podium in front of the speakers).


Roy had prepared this presentation specifically for this meeting, good job.  This slide shows what most non-railroad people do not know - how little contact space a Steel Wheel has to a steel track. I have heard that space referred as the same as a dime or postage stamp.

When I saw the "ALSTOM on Mare Island" name, I remembered having been there before. It was on a CALIFORNIA RAIL 2020 CONFERENCE - SACRAMENTO CALIFORNIA - Sunday 14 NOVEMBER 2010 Excursion to Alstom on Mare Island (Vallejo), California. 


My photo from the California Rail Conference Excursion to the Alstom shops in 2010.

More photos from inside their shops in my earlier report at:

Roy Van Winsbergh's Slides:


Roy noticed the strange symbols at the top of the organization chart and explained them as his PowerPoint version perhaps being a different version than the one in the board room.



Wait!  What happened to the font size...this is like typing and entirely unreadable by the audience.  Almost unreadable on this slide.











Industry - Dave Cook, Energy Conversions


Dave Cook holding an Ultra-Capacitor Module (right) with Paul Dyson.




His research shows that a Metrolink train on a 4-mile segment between stations spends most of its time a full throttle followed by breaking.




Dave mentioned needing a large space for holding the many Ultra-Capacitor Modules and the solution:



A closer look.


The most important slide that Dave showed.






Media Strategy for Rail Advocates - Roger Rudick



Photo of Roger, taken by is father, of an electric locomotive from the past.  He said his dad was a railfan and that is why he is out of focus and the locomotive is in focus.


He says that Foundations and Think Tanks are anti-passenger rail lobbyists, especially these.





LA had light rail, but the oil companies eliminated it in favor of automobiles


Some say we should not use government money for passenger trains...the above is not a government project?



How many high speed trains were running during the Japanese earthquake?  Over 26.  How many derailed?  None.  What about the one that was "lost"?  The electrical system on the system board went out and it did not show up, it was fine.


One critic of HSR said that the only way France's HSR makes money is because it is entirely in an urban area.  The above photo shows that it is not.


How many miles per hour is 574.8 km/h?  357.16 mph.  Rail Museums should have a diorama like this showing visitors that trains are not a thing of the past.


What are "High Speed Trains"?  Educate the public.  Take down signs like this in Oceanside.



Rail advocates should solicit support from these entities.


No.  His "TrainWars" aired and PBS was to purchase "Train Wars II" but Koch said no and PBS folded.




Rather than a 'bus bridge' like Michelle mentioned, at the end of a segment of high speed trail track, you hook on a diesel and take the passengers to their destination.


Roger sent me the following information for you.  After the conference, I asked him for more information on his informative video, Train Wars, which ran on some PBS stations.  He said Train Wars is not online for your viewing, but he did send me these links:

This is the promo trailer we shot a couple of years ago to whet the appetite for potential funders. It got KQED interested in doing our first segment:

And here's the first segment in the version that aired on KCET in Los Angeles:

There were versions that aired on KQED in SF (our funding source) and KPBS in San Diego. Part of it also aired on PBS NewsHour.



More of Roger Rudick, Journalist, Transit Advocate and Author's thoughts on his website:

Roger Rudick's Blog:

Roger Rudick : For the future, high speed rail makes sense and is a bargain  Special to the Mercury News:



2014 California Passenger Rail Summit - April 2-3, 2014 -

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority at Los Angeles Union Station
(Supporting Organizations above) or email

Two stars of the hit show, "Mad Men," are big fans of high-speed rail. And they've teamed up with U.S. PIRG and the humor website Funny or Die to make a short video promoting high speed rail that's launching on the site:

Presenters and future presenters:  Please take a look at Tips for Creating and Delivering Effective Presentations by the maker of PowerPoint, Microsoft.

Disclaimer:  Presenters and Attendees:  If you dislike the photo that I took of you at the conference.  (Yes, this has happened in the past, usually by political office holders or appointees.) Send one (72 dpi 640 dpi on the longest side) that I can substitute to

Remember the tomato farmer from Hanford interviewed in the Roger Rudick videos above.  At 6:30 into this video, he explains why he is a big proponent of High Speed Rail.  Interesting, is it not, how the other reports made you think he was against HSR.  A PBS reporter's take on HSR:

RailPAC | NARP | Other reports by Carl Morrison (photo below) | | Silver Rails Country


Comments welcomed at


Report and photos by Carl "Hobo Mo" Morrison, "Will Write for Rail Tickets."