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RailPAC/NARP Conference

April 17, 2010

Photos and Report by Carl Morrison,

The RailPAC/NARP Conference is always held at a location accessible by trains, planes, buses, and automobiles.  In recent years, it has been held in Los Angeles at the Metro Building, at the east entrance to the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal.  This year, as in the past, I made my way from the first Amtrak stop south of Los Angeles, Fullerton, California, to the meeting, leaving Fullerton at 8:15 a.m.  This got me to the Conference in time to pick up my badge and for Coffee and Pastry Service in the employee cafeteria before the meeting.


As usual, the first person I saw, at the top of the escalator, welcoming all the conference attendees, speakers, and other dignitaries, was Ken Ruben.

When I left Fullerton, as usual there was plenty of train action to watch on the 3 tracks.  
I thought the photo below might be good for a BNSF ad, where a Dad and Son are safely railfanning.


Soon Surfliner 763 pulled in, in push mode, and we were off at 8:15 for LA
The east entrance to Los Angeles Station, from the Metro Building.

Coffee and pastries were available in the cafeteria on the second level, the same level as registration and the conference.  The cafeteria has an outside dining area, and I always enjoy taking photos from this level of the Metro Building.


A Metrolink leaves LAUS.  Note the work being done to add 2 new tracks.
A Surfliner leaves LAUS.
LA Skyline (below).
Graphics inside the Metro Building.

It was time for the Conference to start, 9:30 a.m., so we proceeded to the Board Room.  Council Member Tom LaBonge was not yet available, so we started with the Opening Address by Ara Najarian.


9:00 AM – Registration and badge pick up (Coffee and pastry service)

9:30 AM – Welcome (Delayed pending arrival at the Conference)

9:45 AM – Opening Address

10:00 AM – High Speed Rail:  The Builders

11:00 AM – High Speed Rail: How to spend the first billion dollars.

12.00 PM – Lunch (Box lunch in cafeteria)

1:00 PM – The National System

2:00 PM – California State Rail Program

2:30 PM – LOSSAN and Southern California Commuter Service

3:30 PM – Passenger Rail Advocacy – Where do we go from here?

4:00 PM – RailPAC members business meeting followed by comments and discussion

5:00 PM – Adjourn

Thank you to our event sponsors for their generosity!


Silver Rails Website:

For updated information or to register online for the April RailPAC/NARP Conference go to We are asking $40 for RailPAC and NARP members and $50 for non-members when registering, but you are free to give more. You can also call 916-833-4218 or write to RailPAC at 1017 Street PMB-217 Sacramento, Ca 95814-3805 for more information or to register by mail.

Conference Notes

by Carl Morrison

Click for:  Program with speaker biographies at RailPAC Site


Mr. Najarian, unlike most speakers, had no power point presentation.  Some notes that I took during his presentation:

Metro is enjoying Expanding Regional Rail Projects

    •  County-wide Rail System
    •  High Speed Rail -- received voter approval in 2008  
President Obama and his Federal Administration is providing support this year with $2.3 Billion for initial improvements.

High Speed Rail (HSR) will connect Union Station and Anaheim with a 20 minute ride.

MTA needs new tracks at LAUPT and nearby.

He is mayor of Glendale and they have lost right of way they had been holding for future DMU between Glendale and LAUPT, plus 20 ft. of other right-of-way to HSR .

Measure R in 2008 brought $40 billion in transportation improvements including buses and track.

LAUPT will become a multi-modal hub including HSR, Metro Rail, and Metrolink.

New subway to connect all subway lines and the subway to the sea.

LA Mayor wants to compact 30 years of rail projects into 10 years using future Measure R funds.

Final comment:  "The Future of Rail in California has never been brighter."

High Speed Rail:  The Builders

This was my favorite part of the Conference, hearing about the High Speed DesertXpress and more importantly hearing the two US builders of high speed trains present their pitches why they should be the one to build the rolling stock for the California High Speed Rail System.  It was like hearing two companies giving their presentation to those who will decide.  In fact, these two individuals from Siemens and Talgo might use this same presentation to get the job.

•  Thomas Stone, DesertXpress Enterprises


Click here and scan down the list for Mr. Stone's Biography at the RailPAC Site 

Mr. Stone said the most asked question is, "Why does the DesertXpress from Las Vegas to California terminate in Victorville?"  He says, Victorville is the first population center after Cajon Pass and the DesertXpress needs to provide parking space for 15,000 cars, adjacent to the freeway.  There is not this kind of space for such a lot available in Los Angeles, but there is at Victorville.

Eleven million people a year drive to Las Vegas, all these people have to take I-15 to get there.  The plan for the DesertXpress is to provide valet parking and check your bags to your room at Victorville, 200 miles closer than driving all the way to Vegas.

Eventually this High Speed Train will be connected to Palmdale, a future High Speed Rail Station.  The plan is to follow the I-15 right-of-way at 150 mph speeds with EMU (Electrical Multiple Unit Trains), not Diesel Electric.  Four station sights are being evaluated in Las Vegas and 3 sights in Victorville.  A decision in this area is due in a couple of months.  In Vegas, a vertical station is planned with the DesertXpress on an elevated position in a mixed use station on the Strip.

As to Schedules, he mentioned 20-minute headways with hourly service Mondays through Thursdays.  They plan to close financing before 2011.  Mr. Stone has been working on this for 8 years.  He also mentioned that grades are a challenge between Victorville and Las Vegas, and I have driven to Las Vegas since hearing Mr. Stone's presentation, and noticed that there are two 4,000 ft. summits on the I-15 route.

Mr. Stone gave a very professional, well-delivered presentation and his confident delivery makes you want to see this become a reality.

Click any slide below for a double-sized copy;  Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.












Proposed Las Vegas Station
Proposed 20,000-car parking lot in Victorville.  Check your bags through to your hotel and enjoy free valet parking in Victorville.  One reason for terminal in Victorville rather than Los Angeles is the parking lot size.





High Speed Rail:  The Builders


Mr. Kick's Biography:  Click Here.

Siemens has been in the Sacramento Plant since 1984.

(The November, 2008, TRAC Conference provided a tour of this plant and my report and photos on this tour is at:

Siemens employs 700 people at the plant and has hired 200 in this recession time.  Products that they have built for use in the USA include Oceanside (DMU Sprinter), Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and the proposed new DesertXpress.

States where they have 'true HSR - 220 mph (Electrical Multiple Units) EMUs' include California, Texas, and Florida.  Countries where they have built equipment for HSR equipment currently in use:  Spain, Russia, Germany (Berlin), and China.

They are adding a 20-acre green building to build High Speed Trains, next to their current facility in Sacramento.  They have 420,000 employees world-wide, and 60,000 of those are in the USA.

They have proposed a zero-emissions train for the Calif. HSR - carbon neutral.

Their website:

For his excellent Power Point Slides stored on the RailPAC site, CLICK HERE.  It is a pdf file and may take some time to download, but worth the wait.


When you get to this last slide in his presentation (left), he mentioned that this is what the DesertXpress train will look like, "except for the trees!"

High Speed Rail:  The Builders

•  Joshua Coran, Director of Operations, Talgo Inc.


For Mr. Coran's biography  Click Here.

The Cascades has Talgo equipment, so his company can point to current ridership and service on his equipment.

He mentioned some successes and some failures in Talgo's early articulated trains.  In an articulated trainset, if one car goes bad, the whole trainset is out of service.  To avoid a set going out, Talgo now has a technician on each train it sells, and does not have to have extra trainsets to provide constant service.

Talgo coaches are 43 ft. long, half the length of traditional coaches.  

To me, the most interesting part of his presentation was an illustration of how his trains can take curves at such high speeds:  


If my copy of this important slide is not large enough, go to his slide presentation:   click here.

High Speed Rail: How to Spend the First Billion Dollars

For biographies of these speakers, Click Here.


Mike McGinley, TRAC Board and RailPAC member

Mr. McGinley fells the best investment would be to close the Bakersfield Gap, where there is no train service at this time between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, except through the Tehachapi Loop.

Also, he thinks the first leg of the Anaheim - Los Angeles High Speed Rail should include a grade separation for freights and others like Metrolink at the same time that the HSR is building a grade separation.

IMG_1587.jpg Daniel Krause, Co-founder and Vice President, Californians for High Speed Rail

His group's mission is to promote the CA HSR Project.

In reference to the LA - Anaheim portion, his group supports these principles:  

Build it at HSR standards, not "one-seat ride from Anaheim through LA on north".  

Four-track Metrolink Stations (2 Metrolink tracks and 2 HSR tracks).

For his complete slide presentation, Click Here.

Darrell Clarke, Transportation Co-chair, Sierra Club’s Los Angeles Chapter


Mr. Clarke supports California HSR because of diminishing world-wide oil reserves and for HSR's reduced carbon in moving people.

There was no slide presentation to reference here.

Jerard Wright, Vice President, The Transit Coalition


Mr. Wright's presentation was solely about promoting Run-Through Tracks at Los Angeles Union Station.

His slide with a map showing how this could be accomplished was the first I've seen for this oft called for change to the station.

For his slide presentation, click here.

Paul Dyson, President, RailPAC

IMG_1493.jpg I'm glad I did not post this report immediately after the RailPAC/NARP Conference because it gave me time to get Paul Dyson's take on the conference from his website:

Commentary by Paul Dyson, President

This year at Steel Wheels in California we tried a couple of innovations.  While most of the day consisted of the usual (excellent) presentations by politicians and industry professionals, we also put together a forum of passenger rail advocates from different groups to discuss High Speed Rail, and to attempt to answer the question:  “How to spend the first billion dollars?”  I had a couple of reasons for doing this.  First, however good the speakers might be we needed some variety in the format to keep the audience interested.  Second, and more important in the long run, was the thought that such a free form discussion would reveal that we have more common ground than disagreement among passenger rail advocates and that this could form the basis for united action in the future towards achieving our common goals.

So Steel Wheels was not just a RailPAC and NARP meeting.  We had representatives from Southern California Transit Advocates, the Sierra Club, Californians for High Speed Rail, The Transit Coalition, Train Riders Association of California, Coast Starlight Communities Network, Coastal Rail Now and Southwest Rail Passenger Association, which to me was one of the most encouraging things to happen in a long time.  We have many members who belong to one or more of these groups, myself included, and it has always been my ambition to at least form a coalition, if not a single organization, to have a louder and more effective voice in communicating our message.

The consensus of the High Speed Rail discussion was that the Los Angeles to Anaheim segment should be enhanced rather than rebuilt, and that the Los Angeles Union Station run through tracks should be built as soon as possible but in a way that is compatible with running HSR trains through to Orange County in the future.  This I believe reflects the common sense approach already promulgated in the letter from the CEOs of Metro and OCTA (Art Leahy and Will Kempton) to the CHSRA.  In addition most of the panel recognized that bridging the Los Angeles to Bakersfield gap in the state rail system is of primary importance.  Here then we have broad agreement on two key policy issues that these groups can get behind.  While there is a need to flesh out these ideas with more specific proposals, and probably each of the groups concerned would need to discuss these ideas internally, I am optimistic that we can lay the foundation for a new “Steel Wheels Coalition” that can successfully advance our agenda.

I had a lot of positive comments about the meeting from those who attended.  We had two Mayors, two city council members, and a number of Amtrak and Metro personnel.  Our presenters included the Chairs of Metro, LOSSAN, and Metrolink.  We had really interesting presentations from Desert Xpress, Siemens and Talgo, and from Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s Vice President of Planning.  Once again we had insufficient time for questions, I didn’t expect all of our invited presenters to accept!  But we should be both proud and flattered that these people gave up their Saturday to join us.  It shows that we have come a long way as a group and that we are taken seriously as an important voice in passenger rail issues.

Please feel free to e-mail me with feedback, comments and suggestions.

Paul Dyson, President

Lunch was the next item on the agenda.  It was a very good box lunch and drink from the Cafeteria, a convenient and quick solution.  During Lunch break, Bob Manning invited all Conference Participants to view the refurbished Amtrak cars on the platform.

The Pacific Parlour Car, Napa Valley, was on site for our inspection.

For those of us who have ridden in a Pacific Parlour Car on the Amtrak Coast Starlight Route, the availability of free Wi-Fi onboard was an exciting new announcement.  We found it working, slowly, in the Napa Valley.

The satellite connection for wi-fi also includes ICG's programming of two movies in the lower theatre as well as programming on two large TVs, one upstairs and one downstairs, including 5 choices of programs.

Roland Sunga, Internet Connectivity Group (I.C.G.), Lake Forest, CA, explained that all programming came from this unit in the Parlour Car, upstairs, at the opposite end of the car from the bar.


Large screen monitor on the bar.
On the monitor was a photo of a Surfliner car where they had installed the same system.  Is this the plan for the Surfliner Cars?


A relatively new Amtrak Marketing hire, setting up complementary drinks in the Parlour Car.

Richard Williams, who I had last seen waiting tables in the diner of the Southwest Chief, was on hand to help in the Parlour Car.


They also had a Tiger Refurbished Sleeper on display.
A Deluxe Bedroom "A" in the reburbished sleeper.
The entrance to the bathroom/shower (right), and the sink, with table by window.  Chair between the sink and window.

Bedroom made up for sleeping.  Note difference in width of upper and lower beds.  I was standing in the hallway to take this photo.


A horizontal shot of the Bedroom made up for sleeping
I stepped into the room, past the shower, toilet, sink unit, to show you the new, legless, foldup, chair opposite the beds.
This is a Roomette (no bathroom), just two single seats during the day and two single beds during the night.  This one has the upper bunk down and the lower area still in day mode.  When I travel alone, I use my Roomette in this configuration with my tools and luggage on the top bunk and I work at the lower seat and table.

This is the second seat with the upper bunk down.  Note the 2 steps on the left.  That is the 10 inches you have in this Roomette to get dressed in, and is the steps to the upper bunk.
The same seat and steps as in the photo at left, except the upper bunk is in the day (up) position.
Downstairs are some Roomettes, and two end-of-car rooms that are unique.  This is the Family Room with 2 standard sized bunks, and two short bunks on the window/side wall.  No bathroom, but several are next door.
At the opposite end of the lower level is the Handicapped room which includes a bathroom (above), and 2 bunk beds.

Opposite side of the Handicapped room, which looks a lot like a Roomette, except it has the bathroom and wheelchair lockdowns, no shower.

Outside the Napa Valley Parlour Car, with the Metro Bldg. behind.
Where our meeting was being held.

After lunch the agenda was 

The National System 

•  Stephen Gardner, Vice President of Policy and Development, Amtrak


For Mr. Gardner's biography, Click Here.

Mr. Gardner, after observing the first half of this conference, remarked, 

"The level of conversation here is much higher than other parts of the US where I travel."

This might have been a surprise to him since his presentation was titled:  "Amtrak 101 - basic company system statistics".  Perhaps we deserved at least a level 201 presentation, if not a graduate level presentation.

He mentioned that Amtrak is 21,000 miles of service with 500+ stations, 19,500 employees and 70% of the mileage is run on others' tracks.  80% of the cost is recovered from fare boxes.

Amtrak is on track for the best year ever in ridership on all segments.  The first 6 months of 2009 were the best ever.  Riders from the $4 a gallon era stayed with riding the trains.

We now have a President and Congress that are supportive of rail.  Amtrak is now building for growth, not just maintaining the status quo.  $2.6 billion is being requested for 2010.  The second, third, and fifth most popular routes are in California.

IMG_1650.jpg640/IMG_1650.jpg <<  All California routes are doing well.  San Joaquin's have the best ridership growth.  (Double-click the graphic to the left for a larger copy, or Click Here for the original slides by Mr. Gardner.

Nationally, the Sunset and Zephyr are being studied, for improved value, not to be expanded.  The Sunset, as we learned two years ago at this conference, is being combined with the Texas Eagle for daily service.

One slide presented "Amtrak's new mission:  "provide efficient and effective intercity passenter rail mobility consisting of high-quality service that is trip-time competitive with other intecity travel options."  --PRIIA

"Corridor" is defined as 'less than 750 miles'.  Partnerships are the key to their mission.  Any train of less than 750 miles must be state supported.

States must prepare an integrated State Rail Program for Passenger and Freight with specific projects at 20% state and 80% federal funding. (Bill Bronte has said that for a bankrupt state like California, it is hard to come up with the 20%.)

Gardner says of the FRA, "He who has the Goal, makes the Rules."  Amtrak has access to the whole railroad system in the USA by law at its creation.

All tracks owned by Amtrak are at 110 mph.  As to Amtrak hiring, he is finding that it is hard to find new employees with passenger rail experience.

He gave a tip of the hat to Bill Bronte for PRIIA Sec. 305 - Corridor and equipment pool committee.

In two years, there will be wi-fi on all long distance trains.  It is onboard in the East now and is a 'huge success'.

For Mr. Gardner's full presentation slides, Click Here.

California State Rail Program

•  Bill Bronte, Chief, Caltrans Division of Rail


For Bill's Biography, Click Here.

How are we doing in California?  We've hit the bottom, compared to 2008 (the Best Year to date) and in Jan., Feb., and March, we are seeing increases in ridership.  The San Joaquin route is growing the fastest even though it is in an area with 25% unemployment.  It has seen 5 consecutive months of growth.

The California budget and revenue collection system is broken.

The Division of Rail's money comes from a tax on diesel trucks.

He expressed thanks to Art Brown (next speaker) for going to Sacramento to help save rail in California.

As mentioned above, he is short of matching funds for the 20/80 funds from the Feds for rail.  He fought for years for this plan, but can't fund it now that it is a reality.

Bill is leaving his post in 24 or less months and is looking for replacements.  We're all getting older and when the audience was asked who is under 30 years of age, I saw about 5 hands go up.

If you support rail in California, he says, "Vote for Jerry Brown - not Meg Whitman."

LOSSAN and Southern California Commuter Service

•  Art Brown, Mayor of Buena Park

IMG_1687.jpg For Art Brown's biography, Click Here.

OCTA owns 48 ROW miles.

Passenger service:

Metrolink: 3 lines, 42 daily trains, 11 stations, more than 4 million riders/yr

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner: 22 daily trains, more than 2.7 millon riders/yr LA to SD

Increase weekday service frequency between Fullerton & Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo from 1 hr. now to 1/2 hr. intervals with additional trains for Angel games and Honda Center activities.

Rail car delivery:  52 trailer cars, 7 cab cars (with crash management design and new logo, below)


First 2 cars delivered in March, Delivery complete by late 2010.

Anaheim Regional Intermodal Center (ARTIC) will be a fully integrated transit center serving Amtrak, Metrolink, bus, and future high-speed rail.  Opening and operating in 2013.  It will be located north of the RR tracks, east of 57 Fwy., south of the Honda Center.

Future Plans include:  Grade Separations, Fullerton and Tustin station parking structures, and a Placentia Station.

For Art Brown's complete slide presentation, Click Here.

•  Alex Clifford, Executive Officer, High Speed Rail, Metro

For Mr. Clifford's biography, Click Here.

Mr. Clifford went into great detail about the proposals for the HSR Station at LAUPT, and why different ones will not work.  

They are now thinking of a platform at grade, north of the Station, with a tunnel south of the station under 1st St. then rejoining grade south of 1st Street..

For Mr. Clifford's excellent map of the area around the Los Angeles Union Station, Click Here. Enlarge your screen so that you can read all the labels.


•  Improving The Coast Starlight - America's Premier Long Distance Train

For this thorough improvement plan, Click Here.

Carl Morrison's - Classic and current Trains, and other Outdoor Photographs

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